Full Circuit Reopens Case of Whistle-Blowing Cop
(CN) - The 9th Circuit voted to rehear claims that Burbank, Calif., retaliated against a detective who blew the whistle on abusive interrogation tactics in the department.
Angelo Dahlia claimed that he saw a fellow detective in the Burbank Police Department stick a gun in the face of a suspect, while squeezing the man's throat and saying, "How does it feel to have a gun in your face, motherfucker?"
Dahlia said he heard yelling and the sound of people being hit as the detective continued to interview suspects.
He said he told Burbank Police Lt. John Murphy that "things were getting out of hand, the interviews were getting too physical, and too many people were doing their own thing and were out of control."
But Murphy allegedly told Dahlia to "stop his sniveling," and the beatings continued.
While preparing to execute search warrants, detectives would don fingerless gloves with carbon or hard plastic knuckles and say that they hoped to hit somebody, Dahlia said.
After Dahlia's complaints led to an internal investigation in April 2008, members of the department allegedly tried to threaten and intimidate Dahlia to keep him quiet.
He said they called whistle-blowers "spineless pussies."
Investigators allegedly interviewed Dahlia at least three times, and Dahlia said he faced harassment and threats after each interview.
Dahlia said he disclosed his colleagues' abusive interrogation tactics in a May 2009 interview by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. Four days later, Burbank Police Chief Tim Stehr allegedly placed Dahlia on administrative leave.
Dahlia sued the city and several officers, claiming the disciplinary action constituted retaliation for his protected speech.
A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, concluding that Dahlia's speech was not protected because the "disclosure of incriminating facts" fell within his official duties as a police officer.
The federal appeals panel in Pasadena affirmed this summer, but the court vacated that opinion late Tuesday in favor of a rehearing.