By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Block asserted that Baca had asked Rottman what it would take to settle the Tinker case, which the county was then contesting. Baca had been accused by Tinker of failure to investigate a complaint she relayed to him. Rottman lauded Baca at the time, saying, "Chief Baca’s involvement is the only thing that saved the county from getting whipped in court."
Since he was elected sheriff, however, Baca has made no mention of gender equity at the department. In fact, John Daly, a consulting attorney retained by the county to handle the Bouman consent decree, said he has yet to speak with Baca. "Certainly therebeen a delay from the standpoint of getting together with the new sheriff," Daly said in an interview.
In the meantime, department officials have been slow to follow the letter of the reforms detailed in the settlement. So far, according to Pasadena attorney Dennis Harley, who represents the plaintiffs in the case, the consent decree has been "an abysmal failure."
A case in point is the 1996 civil suit filed by Jamila Bayati, who worked five years as a deputy before retiring in 1995 in the face of unremitting hostility.
As detailed in court papers, Bayati’s workplace was "filled with pervasive acts of sexual harassment," including prominent displays of pornography, restrictions on the assignment of women deputies to overtime shifts posted as "male only" and job transfers on the basis of gender. Bayati, a lesbian, was also singled out for jokes and ridicule from fellow deputies and her supervisors.
According to her claim, the harassment against Bayati escalated after she was interviewed by the Homicide Division in connection with the 1994 in-custody death of inmate John Wiley. When she reported that another deputy had "slammed" Wiley into a wall, investigators came back to tell her the original tape was defective, and warned her not to use the word "slam" during a re-interview. When she complained to her boss a week later that "she resented and objected to the continuous violence being exhibited by the Sheriff’s deputies on her shift," she was asked to "consider these guys’ careers." Six months later, Bayati found she had herself been made a target of the Wiley investigation.
Bayati said in a recent interview that her willingness to speak up against sexist comments and transfers because of her gender led to men and women avoiding her. "Some of the most egregious and outrageous stuff is not necessarily the thing that hurts the most," Bayati said. "What hurts the most is that you haven’t done anything wrong and you speak up for what you believe in, and then you see your friends two steps down the hall stop looking at you, like you have a disease and they don’t want to catch it."
More than simply not supporting her, colleagues actively demonstrated against her so they would fit in. When her court case was initially thrown out, deputies from her unit copied a summary of the judgment and posted it on the bulletin board in the Los Angeles County–USC Medical Center jail ward, where she worked. The display was a sort of celebration of her loss.
"They went along with the crusade to prove their loyalty because they think that’s how they can get brownie points, and the sad fact is, it’s true," Bayati said.
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