Friday, February 3, 2023
Lawsuits Show ‘Culture of Discrimination’ Inside LAWA Police Department
By Jennifer Bihm, Contributing Writer
Published August 15, 2019

Adonis Cutchlow. (Courtesy photo)

Marlo Richardson. (Courtesy photo).

An African American police lieutenant with the Los Angeles World Airport Police Department said she is anxious about returning to work after a colleague and she filed discrimination lawsuits against the organization and its chief, David Maggard. Marlo Richardson said she and other officers “who look like her,” are being constantly scrutinized, investigated and overlooked for well-earned promotions. According to the suits -one also filed by Adonis Cutchlow – the plaintiffs are asking for: “All special damages, according to proof; general damages for emotional distress and mental anguish in a sum according to proof, for exemplary and punitive damages in a sum appropriate to punish Defendants and set an example for others; for equitable relief; for prejudgment interest at the prevailing legal rate; for Attorney’s fees and costs as permitted based on above causes of action; and such other and further relief as this Court may deem just and proper…”

According to the attorney for both plaintiffs, James DeSimone, a culture of discrimination and harassment permeates the department, “and it starts from the top. Chief David Maggard has long been systematically maintaining an inconsistent and discriminatory double- standard of discipline for African American personnel, he said.”

Richardson, who has always wanted to do police work, she said, has suffered high anxiety at the thought of going to work these days.


“Imagine working 20 years with no disciplinary action, successfully promoting about four times, and in those four promotions there were other specialized opportunities,” said Richardson.

“… And then, to have new leadership come in … and basically, all of your good work becomes something different. You’re being scrutinized, being called a liar while having done nothing wrong … it’s been really difficult. It’s been very stressful.”

Richardson was fired last year for what she and her attorney are calling “baseless and pre-textual reasons.” However, the Board of Civil Services Commissioners decided to honor an arbitrator’s decision to reinstate her, “with any and all back pay and benefits, and direct removal of any reference to the disciplinary action from her personnel file,” she said.

Richardson says she continues to have anxiety about returning to work but is compelled to stand up against the discriminatory culture at LAWA PD.

“There is not one African American lieutenant (in the department), right now, who is not under some sort of investigation, pending disciplinary action, suspension or termination. So, I’m extremely fearful of having to return to that environment because the same people who basically ruined my life are still there,” she told the Sentinel in a recent interview.

“They’re doing the same thing to other people who look like me. Luckily, the law prevents retaliation, so I hopefully won’t have to deal with that but I’m sure they did not like that they tried to erase me and they were not successful. They’ve ruined opportunities for me to promote; they’ve ruined my reputation. They’ve really impacted my livelihood.”


Meanwhile, DeSimone filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) on behalf of Cutchlow in April, who received a “right to sue” letter in return. According to Cutchlow, he has been consistently subjected to discrimination, harassment, retaliation and a hostile work environment at the hands of Maggard, along with members of his staff.  Lt. Cutchlow’s authority has been reduced and limited, which is inconsistent with his promotion, according to the filed DFEH Complaint.

De Simone said that Cutchlow successfully passed the Captain’s test last spring and soon after, department heads launched an investigation preventing the 38 year-old officer from being promoted.

“Since then, Lt. Cutchlow has continued to be under several transparently frivolous investigations that continue to prevent him from being considered for promotion, due to his race as an African American,” DeSimone said.

“These groundless complaints against Lt. Cutchlow were made around the same time he was competing for a position as an Airport Police Captain – as a result, he has now effectively been eliminated from the process …”

“I just really hope that enough people who have similar situations as myself stand up for what’s right and hopefully we can change this type of behavior,” Richardson said.

“Of course we cannot comment on the lawsuit,” Officer Rob Pedregon, Public Information Officer for LAWA PD, told the LA Sentinel. “But we can say that those allegations are completely unfounded.”

According to the LAWA PD website, part of its mission and core values is the respect for personnel, they said.

“We understand that our people are our most critical asset. We are committed to attracting the best, the brightest, and the most committed, while providing a work environment that is empowering, supportive, collaborative, transparent, and encouraging. We are committed to providing our personnel all of the tools they need to excel and grow in this environment.”

“Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) denies it discriminates or retaliates against employees because of race, gender or any other basis,” said Becca Doten, LAWA media relations director in a statement released to the Sentinel.
“LAWA has one of the most diverse workforces in the City of Los Angeles. We are proud of the diversity of both sworn and civilian personnel at every level of our organization. The 1100 men and women of Airport Police take great pride in providing excellent law enforcement service to our community and the 87.5 million passengers who travel through our airport annually. Maintaining public security and safety is our top priority.

“At times, Airport Police, like other law enforcement agencies, receives complaints alleging police officer misconduct. LAWA has a fair, thorough and equitable internal affairs process and always makes good-faith decisions based on its internal investigation. Disciplinary actions are subject to checks and balances through the City’s Civil Service Commission process. LAWA is not at liberty to discuss individual police officer civil service appeals, which are confidential personnel matters by law. LAWA is taking immediate steps to implement the Civil Service Commission’s final decisions.”


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