In a lawsuit filed against the San Gabriel Police Department last month, five current and one former Asian-American police officers claim they were mocked and subjected to racial slurs by fellow officers.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the officers claim they were routinely passed over for promotions and assignments in favor of non-Asian officers with less experience.
At car accidents, the Asian officers were told by their non-Asian counterparts that “their people” were poor drivers. One plaintiff, Officer Sunny Kim, was passed over for a 2014 promotion after he reported another officer for using the N-word.
Kim left the department in October.
Another officer, Nhat Huynh, claimed that he was told that a dog was afraid of him because the animal feared Huynh would eat it.
The lawsuit also says officers commonly referred to local residents as “f–king gooks and were targeted with mock accents by saying things like “ching chow.” Fellow officers allegedly made race-based jokes, including those about Asian physical features and the shape of genitalia and stereotypes about Asians excelling at math and science.
The lawsuit named a captain and three lieutenants within the department.
“It’s clear that the comments are not just limited to Asian police officers,” said Bernard Alexander III, who represents the officers. “As to the promotions, all of the Asian officers were looked over. There is a bias here against Asian officers and Asian citizens.”
“We take these allegations very seriously, but were quite surprised by this lawsuit,” he told HuffPost in a statement. Sixty-two percent of the residents in San Gabriel are Asian, according to the latest census.
According to the lawsuit, some of the officers endured the discrimination for 21 years and did not speak up out of fear it would impact their employment with the department.
There are only seven Asian officers among the department’s 50 full-time employees.
“We take these allegations very seriously but were quite surprised by this lawsuit,” said San Gabriel Public Information Officer Jonathan Fu. “The department has sworn to protect and serve everyone in our community in a professional manner. We take that commitment very seriously, and those who deviate from it will be addressed accordingly.”