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Trainee claims retaliation in suit against CVPD

Posted: 7:42 PM, Sep 10, 2015
Updated: 2015-09-11 02:42:36Z

An officer in training with the Chula Vista Police Department claims he was fired after reporting "nitpicking" and racial comments from two field training officers.

This week, David Mitchell filed a lawsuit against the department for racial discrimination, a hostile work environment and retaliation.

Mitchell was no ordinary trainee. He was a decorated lieutenant in the San Diego Police Department until his retirement in 2014. In 2015, he signed on with the Chula Vista Police Department, he said, at the request of Chief David Bejerano, who is also a former SDPD officer.

As a lateral officer, Mitchell was required to complete a 10-week training period. He claims that almost immediately he was subjected to "racist and inappropriate language" by his superiors.

On one occasion, Mitchell claims his field training officer used the "n-word" to refer to a location. On another, Mitchell claims a second officer called a family living under messy conditions as "trailer trash," adding another racial slur that Team 10 won't print.

Mitchell also claims that one of his supervisors referred to the patrons at a gay bar as "Nancies."

Mitchell alleges in the lawsuit that some of his supervisors began "nitpicking" him about his driving skills and the speed of his performance on new skills. The lawsuit claims the supervisors were being "deliberately unfair."

Mitchell filed a complaint with the state's Department of Fair Employment and Housing. A short time later, Mitchell said he was terminated.

"It was very surprising that they would deal with this situation in that way," recalled Mitchell. "My thoughts were that I had to speak out and talk about things that were wrong, things that were inappropriate, and hopefully, effect some change."

Mitchell's attorney, Dan Gilleon, said this is clearly a case of retaliation.

"The city actually rallied behind the racist and threw Mr. Mitchell under the bus and retaliated against him," said Gilleon.

"The underlying act of racism is bad enough," Gilleon added. "You don't use the n-word these days, especially with someone who's a new trainee that you don't know, and you know he's a black man. This guy knew exactly what he was doing when he referred to that place as the 'n-hill.'"

"But then for the city to ratify it and send a signal to all the troops out there that we actually condone racism, but don't speak out. That's what's scary, and that's what's going to ruin police departments like this," Gilleon told Team 10.

"Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the men and women who work for the Chula Vista Police Department are hard-working, honorable people," said Mitchell, who wants to put this behind him and get back to serving the public.

He told Team 10 he would even consider working again for CVPD.

"It's not all just about the department; it's about providing service to the people," said Mitchell.

Team 10 reached out to the Chula Vista Police Department for their side of the story. They directed us to talk to the Chula Vista City Attorney.

Bart Miesfeld, Chula Vista Senior Assistant City Attorney, wrote: "Our office has not been served with the complaint and consequently cannot comment on the case. However, we are generally aware of Mr. Mitchell's allegations. The City and the Chula Vista Police Department take allegations of this nature very seriously."