Police Firing Not Retaliatory, Judge Finds

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge has gutted a former police officer’s claims that he was fired for complaining that Richmond, Calif., police chief Christopher Magnus sexually harassed him and made racial slurs against minorities.
     U.S. District Judge William Alsup outlines the case’s history in his 13-page order, filed on Friday.
     Asian-American former police officer Thomas Hauschild started working for the city in 2005 as a detective, a member of the SWAT team and a firearms instructor.
     His career began a downward spiral after his former wife, also employed by the City of Richmond, accused him of domestic abuse that occurred from 2006 to 2012.
     The city initiated an investigation connected to a 2007 incident, but concluded that the complaint was unfounded.
     A second investigation followed on Sept. 23, 2012 after a physical altercation that resulted in injuries to both parties.
     This investigation found that Hauschild was the “primary aggressor” in the incident, that he threatened and intimidated his ex-wife, and that he made false statements during the investigation.
     Chief Magnus recommended terminating Hauschild, claiming justification based on the 2012 incident alone. The city followed Magnus’s recommendation.
     Hauschild responded with claims of retaliation connected to an incident in which Magnus allegedly “began inappropriately touching” him in 2009, which he reported to his supervisor, Lt. Arnold Threets. He also complained that Magnus made discriminatory remarks about African-Americans and Latinos, and that Magnus asked him to lie during an investigation into a racial discrimination complaint.
     Threets confirmed that Magnus had made racial slurs, but Magnus and the city say no sexual advance ever took place. Threets also denied that Hauschild had ever reported the alleged incident to him.
     Hauschild sued Magnus and the City of Richmond in April 2015. He amended the complaint that May, alleging violation of the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, retaliation and harassment, violation of the California Constitution and violation of the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights (POBR).
     He later dropped the retaliation and harassment claims, but filed for partial summary judgment in relation to his Public Safety Officer and civil rights claims.
     The defendants filed for summary judgment on all claims.
     Alsup agreed with the defendants on all but the Public Safety Officer claim.
     According to the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights, quoted in Alsup’s ruling, “no punitive action … shall be undertaken for any act, omission or other allegation of misconduct if the investigation of the allegation is not completed within one year of the public agency’s discovery.”
     If the city considered Hauschild’s past incidents and reports when making the decision to fire him, it may have violated the POBR, Aslup found.
     “Defendants’ assertion, that the old conduct played no role in the termination decision, may very well be true,” Alsup wrote. “That, however, must be determined by the trier of fact. A reasonable trier of fact could find that based on the several references to past events in the Magnus memorandum, and based on the questions regarding old incidents raised in the investigatory interview, that the city actually gave weight to these old events in making its termination decision.”
     He added that, “While Magnus stated that the evidence showed plaintiff was the primary aggressor even without any consideration of the prior allegations of domestic abuse, the recurring reference to those events throughout the process raises an inference, even if remote, that plaintiff’s past came back to haunt him.”
     But Alsup was not ready to rule in Hauschild’s favor on the issue, either.
     “This order concludes that summary judgment for the plaintiff is also inappropriate,” he said. “In his memorandum, Magnus states that he had determined that each of these charges, standing alone, warranted termination of employment. Moreover, the memorandum concluded that the evidence showed plaintiff was the primary aggressor even without any consideration of the prior allegations of domestic abuse. A reasonable trier of fact could conclude that defendants’ termination of plaintiff was not based on acts outside the one-year limitations.”

%d bloggers like this: