Circuit Revives Officer Suit Over Burbank Police Abuse

A Burbank police detective, who accused fellow officers of retaliation after he reported they assaulted and beat suspects in a 2007 robbery, will have a second shot at pursuing his own civil rights lawsuit.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday it will reconsider an order to dismiss the civil rights suit by Angelo Dahlia, who was placed on paid administrative leave four days after he disclosed alleged abuse of suspects by other officers.

Dahlia sued Burbank Chief of Police Tim Stehr and other high-ranking officers after Dahlia reported the suspected abuse of suspects by other officers.  U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow refused the chief’s request to dismiss the case in 2010, saying it was too soon and Dahlia needed time to gather more evidence.  She rejected Stehr’s claim of qualified immunity.

But in August a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit reversed and said Stehr was immune from suit, in an unpublished order.

The panel said the question of whether being placed on paid administrative leave amounts to an “adverse employment action” has never been decided by the appeals court.

That meant Dahlia’s right to be protected from a forced leave was “not clearly established” at the time of Stehr’s action, thus Stehr would not have understood what he was doing violates that right.

On Tuesday the full court voted to reconsider the question before a full 11-judge en banc panel.

The dispute began in late 2007 when dahlia was called to investigate a take-over robbery of a bakery.  Dahlia allegedly saw a police lieutenant outside police interview rooms put one hand on a suspect’s throat and hold a handgun under the suspect’s eye and say, “How does it feel to have a gun in your face m………..?” according to court papers.

During that evening, Dahlia also heard noises coming from the interrogation room that included yelling and the sound of someone being hit, according to Morrow’s 2010 order.

Dahlia alleged in a 2009 lawsuit that a group of officers threatened or intimidated him to keep him from disclosing the allegedly abusive tactics.  He also alleged he was harassed and threatened as he was interviewed three times by Internal Affairs.

He did not say what he told investigators, but in May 2009, Dahlia said he disclosed the misconduct in the robbery case to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Four days later Stehr placed him on administrative leave.

At the time Dahlia filed his suit in 2009 he was the seven member of the department to sue the city and other officers alleging civil rights violations by a group of rogue cops, who used intimidation to silence fellow officers about purported misconduct.

Case: Dahlia v. Stehr, No. 10-55283

 

 

 

 

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