Woman wins sexual harassment lawsuit against Oceanside Police Department

Victim awarded $1.5 million by jury

A Vista superior court jury on Wednesday awarded a former subordinate of a former Oceanside police officer $1.5 million in a sexual harassment lawsuit. 

The attorney for Kimberly Hirst told 10News that when Oceanside police began an internal investigation in 2009, former Officer Gilbert Garcia's behavior actually became even worse.

"During that period of time there was some additional retaliation... so that was further retaliation of her, even though they had a responsibility to protect her," said attorney Dwight Ritter.

Why would the department protect Garcia? It may hinge on a DUI case and possible cover-up involving one of its other officers.

Sources told 10News in February of 2012,  the FBI looked at whether the Oceanside Police Department ordered incriminating audio tapes destroyed after one of their officers appeared to have committed a crime. No charges were ever filed.

In November of 2009, Garcia was fired over Hirst's sexual harassment claim. Garcia's attorney, Dan Gilleon, filed a wrongful termination suit and said the harassment claim hid the real motive.

"As far as smoking gun evidence, this is pretty much as good as it gets," said Gilleon during an interview in 2012. "The audio tapes make it very clear that they were covering this DUI up."

Gilleon went on to tell 10News the harassment claim was a case of crude banter on both sides.

The jury deemed it much more serious after the four-week trial.

"In this case, Kimberly Hirst truly suffered as a result of what's happened and she continues to suffer," said Ritter.

The jury's verdict was 11-1 in awarding the $1.5 million, but that award could be decreased if the judge decides to lower it.

 

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