While a police department could not legally discriminate against its employee police officers based on their ethnicity, it could legally take adverse employment action against them based on the race of the man they shot. This decision reverses a $4 million jury verdict in favor of two policemen who complained that they were discriminated against because they were of Mexican-American descent and have been involved in an incident in which they mistakenly shot and killed an unarmed, autistic African-American man. The court holds that while the employer police department could not legally take adverse action against the policemen based on their own ethnicity, the police department was free to consider the victim’s race and the political problems which the shooting of an unarmed African-American male might cause in the community if the plaintiff policemen were allowed to return to patrol duty. Since the jury was not instructed to disregard the victim’s race and since the plaintiffs had not established that the police department discriminated against them based on their own ethnicity rather than based on its assessment of the political difficulties their shooting caused, the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict, and judgment had to be entered for the defendant city.
California Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 1 (Lui, J.); September 14, 2017; 2017 WL 4053873