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Former University Of California Police Officer Wins $7.2M Lawsuit Over Racial Bias Allegations In Firing

A jury found that Lt. Glenn Harper was fired partly because of his race. 

Ex-University of California, Santa Cruz, Police Department Lt. Glenn Harper was awarded a $7.2 million judgment by an Alameda County Superior Court jury over Harper’s claims that the police department discriminated against him by firing him partly because of his race. 

According to KSBW, Harper, who is Black, worked for the San Jose Police Department for 25 years, eventually retiring as a lieutenant. Harper only came out of retirement after being recruited by UCSC PD Police Chief Nader Owens.

A sergeant filed a series of retaliatory complaints against Harper following an incident in which Harper sought to discipline a supervisor over allegedly mishandling a case.

According to his lawsuit, Harper had an exemplary service record; he had no disciplinary incidents on his record. When hired, Harper was one of only five Black police officers who had worked at the university since 1965.

According to the suit, despite objections from Owens and an investigator that Harper should not be fired, Jean Marie Scott, an associate vice chancellor at UCSC, fired Harper in 2017. In addition to Harper, four other Black officers were fired from the department, which prompted the jury to conclude that the choice to fire Harper was “racially based in part because it was excessively punitive compared with how she treated other officers involved in the same investigation.”

According to Harry Stern, Harper’s lawyer, “What the jury found unanimously, after about a month trial, was that the university had adopted and ratified the disgruntled sergeant’s racism, including some explicitly race-based comments, in making the decision to fire Glenn,” Stern told Lookout. “That’s what the case was all about.”

However, UCSC spokesperson Scott Hernandez-Jason told the outlet that the university was disappointed with the lawsuit’s outcome and plans to appeal the decision. He also maintained that Harper was fired due to repeated instances of unprofessional conduct.

“As the university maintained throughout the litigation, Glenn Harper’s employment was terminated in 2017 after multiple instances of unprofessional conduct.”

Stern, meanwhile, hopes that the judgment against the university makes UCSC and other universities take notice. 

“[I hope the verdict] catches their attention, makes them stop and pause, and think more carefully about situations like this.”

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