A Los Angeles police bloodhound handler is suing the city, alleging he suffered a backlash for reporting the alleged sexual harassment of one of his three colleagues in the unit by a supervisor who also was fabricating overtime claims.
LAPD Officer Elliot Zibli filed the whistleblower lawsuit Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, saying he was forced to retire earlier than he wanted to because of stress. The suit seeks unspecified damages.
Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the City Attorney's Office, could not be immediately reached.
Zibli first began working with police dogs in 1998 and became a bloodhound handler in 2015 in the LAPD's gang and narcotics division, according to the suit, which says Sgt. Joe Danny Garcia was put in charge of their unit the same year. Soon thereafter, Garcia began to harass Zibli's colleague, Karolin Clarke, by making inappropriate comments, massaging her shoulders and pressing his body up against hers, the suit alleges.
The complaint also alleges that Garcia began to falsify his overtime slips. Zibli and his colleagues complained to a lieutenant who tried to get Garcia transferred based on the overtime allegations, but a captain who was friendly to Garcia intervened and removed the K-9 unit from the lieutenant's supervision, according to the complaint.
In January 2016, Zibli told another lieutenant that Garcia was harassing Clarke, the suit states. Instead of taking corrective action, the K-9 unit supervisors "undertook a pattern of retaliation" against Zibli and his fellow officers, the suit states.
Zibli alleges he was denied additional training, not given adequate weapons and backup officer support during searches and given assignments far from his home.
"The department's retaliatory actions toward (Zibli) increasingly placed his safety, as well as the safety of the other bloodhound handlers, at risk," the suit states.
Zibli says he was forced to resign in July and that he did so earlier than he planned because he was concerned about his health and safety.