Former UC Santa Cruz police lieutenant files lawsuit against UC Board of Regents

UC Board of Regents meeting
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A former UC Santa Cruz Police Department lieutenant filed a lawsuit against the UC Board of Regents on April 18 for allegations of retaliation and discrimination based on race and gender.

The UC Santa Cruz Police Department hired former lieutenant Glenn Harper, a Black male police officer, in 2014. While on the force, the lawsuit alleged, Harper “clashed” with his indirect superior, UC Santa Cruz Associate Vice Chancellor Jean Marie Scott — a white female — when he disagreed with actions she proposed the Police Department should take that he perceived as illegal, including discrimination. In 2016, Jean Marie Scott took over an Internal Affairs complaint investigation against Harper that ended in his termination in 2017, despite recommendations from others against his firing.

“UC Santa Cruz believes this lawsuit is without merit and will vigorously defend itself in court,” said UC Santa Cruz spokesperson Scott Hernandez-Jason in a statement.

Harper’s attorney, John Scott, said though the UC regents will ultimately determine whether or not the case will end in a settlement or in a courtroom, he took the case assuming it would go to trial.

The Internal Affairs investigation Jean Marie Scott oversaw began with a complaint from one of Harper’s officers, James Lunnen. According to the lawsuit, Lunnen allegedly mishandled a campus safety issue in May 2016 in which a white student pointed a gun at a Latinx student in a dorm room. The day after, Harper informed Lunnen that he was planning to initiate an Internal Affairs complaint against him, citing Lunnen’s alleged misconduct.

On the same day as this conversation, Lunnen initiated a separate Internal Affairs complaint against Harper regarding how he was treated after the gun incident. John Scott said Jean Marie Scott took over this investigation by ordering police Chief Nader Oweis not to bring on his own investigator — an “unprecedented” decision. Jean Marie Scott then hired outside investigator James Gardiner.

According to the lawsuit, in an interview with Gardiner, Lunnen allegedly said Harper had a “fairly substantial learning disability” and “writes like he speaks” in “nontraditional English.” The lawsuit alleged that since Harper is college-educated and has no learning disability, these claims were “racially-motivated.”

The lawsuit further alleged that the investigation led by Jean Marie Scott and Gardiner was based on racial bias and was “outcome-determinative” to justify Harper’s termination. John Scott said that despite recommendations from other people, including Oweis, to refrain from terminating Harper, Jean Marie Scott terminated him in 2017.

“Is it just ironic that lieutenant Harper is an African American?” John Scott said. “This case asks a lot of important questions, and I think Mrs. Scott has a lot of explaining to do.”

Hernandez-Jason said in a statement that UC Santa Cruz remains committed to an inclusive culture.

“The campus is committed to fostering an environment in which people from all backgrounds are valued and supported,” Hernandez-Jason said in the statement.

Contact Rachel Barber at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @rachelbarber_.