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Thursday, Jan 03 2013 04:21 PM

Officers to sue Tehachapi Police

Two Tehachapi Police officers are threatening to sue the City of Tehachapi claiming threats of physical violence and mistreatment for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing within the department. 

In a filing with the Kern County Superior court on New Year's Eve, officers Rick Disney and Peter Graff are seeking $1.5 million dollars each for emotional distress and mental suffering after claiming to have experienced a hostile work environment and loss of pay for reporting the incidents.

Officer Graff said the mistreatment began after he reported a superior officer was falsifying time sheets, while Disney indicated his problems occurred after reporting that a senior officer served alcohol to under age police explorers and then was assigned to investigate the very same incident.  

Steven P. Wainer, the attorney representing both officers said that Police Chief Jeff Kermode did not investigate the incidents at all, but instead engaged in acts of retaliation against the officers for what they brought forward.

Kermode, along with Sergeant Kevin Empey, Senior Officer Scott Ketcham and Senior Officer Mike Christian are listed in the filing as "employees who caused this injury, damage or loss" in Disney's claim, which also lists several other incidences involving what he considered discriminatory or to have created a hostile work environment.

Meanwhile, Graff has listed the same members of the department in his claim and also reports being subjected to threats of physical violence from fellow officers.

The city has 45 days to respond to, accepting it or rejecting the allegations, after which the lawsuit can move forward.

"Unfortunately, while private persons are generally not limited in the comments that they can make to the media about a case, I am prohibited from publically discussing police personal matters," Kermode said. "Nevertheless, we take all allegations of misconduct seriously, whether generated internally or externally. We investigate misconduct allegations, in some circumstances with the assistance of independent investigators, and when allegations are substantiated, we take appropriate action."

Kermode also said he was extremely proud of the men and woman of his department who work hard every day to protect their community and together create a very positive working environment.

"I would ask everyone to keep an open mind and recognize that they are hearing just one side of the story," he said. "While I am prevented by law from discussing the details of the allegations, I look forward to discussing these allegations in the appropriate judicial setting."

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