Two Fontana Police Officers Allege Racist Culture at Department, Suing For Damages

Two former Fontana police officers are moving toward trial on a lawsuit alleging that for years they were subjected to racist jokes, passed over for promotions and, ultimately, fired or forced to retire after complaining about the culture within the department.

Andrew Anderson, who is Latino, and David J. Moore, who is black, say the alleged racist culture permeated the department for decades and trickled down from the top. The former officers, both transfers to Fontana from the Los Angeles Police Department, say they hope the litigation clears their names and forces change within the department.
Moore was hired in October 2000 and fired in January 2017 for what he said was leaving his wife on his insurance plan after they were divorced. Although he appealed his termination, the Fontana City Council upheld it in August.
“Because he has a termination on file at the city of Fontana, nobody will hire him. He wants to get that overturned so he can go work somewhere else,” said Moore’s attorney, Bradley Mancuso.

Anderson was hired in August 2002 and, he claims, forced to take a medical retirement in August 2017. He says he went out on paid disability in December 2016 to be treated for work-related anxiety and should have been afforded 12 months of treatment. Instead, according to the suit, he was forced to take a medical retirement after only six months, when the department declared him unfit for duty.

Moore and Anderson, former partners on the police force and neighbors as well, filed the lawsuit in San Bernardino Superior Court in June 2016 — when both were still employed in Fontana — and amended it in June 2018.
A trial-setting conference is scheduled for Tuesday in San Bernardino Superior Court before Judge Wilfred J. Schneider Jr.

The two former officers believe they were singled out for complaining about the department culture. They also claim they were passed over for promotions because they are minorities.

But the pair also acknowledge they were disciplined in 2014 and 2015 for separate incidents that occurred off duty.

“Now the plan is to let the lawsuit play out in court,” Moore said Thursday in an interview.

Minorities, the former officers allege, are grossly underrepresented in the Fontana Police Department. Of 189 sworn officers, the department had no more than four black officers at any one time, constituting only 2 percent of the force. And while Latinos comprise roughly 70 percent of Fontana’s population, only 15 percent of the police force is Latino, according to the lawsuit.

Moore believes that must change.

“There is an underlying current of racial discrimination going on at that department, and everyone knows it,” said the 46-year-old former officer, who is now working labor jobs to pay his bills.

The two former officers allege they were frequently subjected to racist jokes and mistreatment while working at the Police Department. The rank-and-file often used the terms “wetbacks” and “beaners” to describe Latinos and the n-word and “monkeys” to describe blacks. The term “pink panties” often was used in reference to Latino citizens who would ask officers or dispatchers if they knew Spanish. “Hispanic panic,” they say, was a term used by some officers to describe Latino citizens experiencing emotional distress, according to the lawsuit.

In one incident, it was suggested Anderson bring in menudo for breakfast during a morning briefing, and a sergeant yelled out, “I don’t want that Mexican (expletive) here.” Moore alleges a colleague called him a “silverback,” another derogatory word for blacks, the suit alleges.

In September 2007, Anderson walked in on a group of officers giggling while watching a video. When Anderson asked what was so funny, they reluctantly played it for him. It showed a little girl being told by her parents to say “sparkling wiggles,” but when the girl tried speaking it, it came out sounding like “(expletive n-words)” It came to be an inside joke within the department, according to the lawsuit.

“After conducting a sweep at a location, the officers would say, ‘no sparkling wiggles here,’ ” the suit alleges.
When Anderson and Moore complained of the conduct, it fell on deaf ears, even with Mayor Acquanetta Warren, the lawsuit states.

City Attorney Jeff Ballinger declined to comment, citing both “pending or threatened litigation.”

Warren did not return telephone calls seeking comment. Ballinger, however, released a statement from Warren.
“While it is generally the city’s policy to not comment on pending litigation,” Warren said, “given the serious nature of the allegations, as the mayor, I can assure you that the city has zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. We will let due process take its course.”

Before his termination, Anderson was a highly decorated officer. He had twice been named Officer of the Month, received the 2005 Robbery Homicide Award, and was also the recipient of the department’s excellence award and numerous other commendations, according to the lawsuit. Moore, the suit states, was named Officer of the Month four times, named School Resource Officer of the Year in 2006, received an Award of Excellence in 2007, and the Robbery Homicide Award in 2008.

Moore and Anderson will seeking both compensatory and punitive damages at trial.
“My goal is to change the dynamics of that organization,” he said.