A group of veteran Asian-American officers from the San Gabriel Police Department is filing a lawsuit against their employer for race-based harassment and discrimination within their department.
The officers, Allen Sam, Wei “Gilbert” Lee, Sunny Kim, Vy Van, and Nhat Huynh, who are being represented by Santa Monica-based law firm Alexander Krakow + Glick LLP, have each served 10 to 14 years in the force, according to KTLA 5. During their time served, they faced years of harassment from their fellow officers.
The complaint filed by the officers detailed that some personnel of the department routinely used racial slurs against the Asian-American officers. They also mocked them by using pseudo-Asian accents.
Disparaging comments related to physical traits, food, and stereotypes that are most often associated with people of Asian descent were also rampant in the force. Leaders of the department, including the assistant police chief and 20 unnamed officers, have all been linked to the racial abuse.
Almost every time the Asian-American officers respond to a crime scene involving any car related accident, some of them would often hear comments about “their people” being poor drivers. Lee and Sam also revealed in the record how they were victimized by their fellow officers in the force by mockingly mispronouncing their names as “Gilba” (Gilbert) and “Aween” (Allen), respectively.
The complaint, according to Bernard Alexander III, a partner of the law firm that represents the officers, finds the situation rather “ironic” due to the fact that the department serves a majority-Asian community, San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported. In the most recent United States census figure, it was revealed that San Gabriel has more than 60% Asian-American residents.
The plaintiffs also pointed out in the complaint that Asian-American officers were often ignored when it came to promotions; meanwhile, non-Asian officers were routinely promoted despite being less qualified for the position.
“Asian-Americans are under-represented in SGPD’s leadership, with only one Asian-American lieutenant and one Asian-American sergeant,” the statement read. “In the last 16 years, only one Asian-American SGPD officer has been promoted to lieutenant. No officer of Asian descent has ever served in the role of police chief (or) captain.”
“Because SGPD management engages in this harassing and demeaning behavior, SGPD officers learn, from the time they start as new trainee officers, that degrading people of Asian descent, including plaintiffs and city residents, is a practice condoned, if not encouraged, by SGPD,” the attorneys wrote.
The plaintiffs’ aim for the lawsuit is to “end illegal practices” that have created a “hostile work environment” as well as end alleged discrimination against Asian-American officers in the department.
Featured image via San Gabriel City