(CN) – The 9th Circuit on Tuesday declined to resuscitate a former Burbank detective’s claim that he was retaliated against for reporting his colleagues’ abusive interrogation tactics.
Angelo Dahlia claimed he saw a fellow detective in the Burbank Police Department squeeze a suspect’s throat and stick a gun in his face, 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.”
Murphy allegedly told Dahlia to “stop his sniveling.”
Dahlia said the beatings continued and he saw detectives don fingerless gloves with carbon or hard plastic knuckles while preparing to execute search warrants, saying they hoped to hit somebody.
An internal investigation was launched in April 2008, and Dahlia claimed his colleagues and superiors tried to threaten and intimidate him to keep him quiet, calling whistleblowers “spineless pussies.”
Dahlia was interviewed by investigators at least three times. After each interview, Dahlia said he was harassed and threatened.
In May 2009, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department interviewed Dahlia, who said he disclosed his colleagues’ abusive interrogation tactics. Four days later, Burbank Police Chief Tim Stehr placed Dahlia on administrative leave.
Dahlia sued the city of Burbank 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 agreed.
“Dahlia’s disclosure to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department was made in the course of his official duties, and thus falls outside the protection offered by the First Amendment,” Judge Kim Wardlaw wrote.