Toxic Cop Syndrome

2 mins read

On August 9th, Pasadena Chief of Police Eugene Harris informed a room full of District 3 residents, Pasadena City Manager Miguel Márquez and, finally, a Pasadena Media television crew that he was gleeful about the quality and diversity of his senior command staff.

The audience simply wasn’t having it.

During the peppery Q&A session that followed, Harris responded that he was legally prohibited from commenting regarding the discipline of Pasadena Police Department officers allegedly observed drinking alcohol before going on duty, a federal lawsuit regarding the department’s alleged excessive use of force, or about the department’s alleged retaliation toward a Black female officer who deescalated an explosive situation involving a fellow PPD cop.

Had the District 3 community known about the “Good Old Boys Club,” described in a lawsuit filed in June and only recently revealed, they might have challenged the Chief’s expression of “glee” about PPD’s command staff diversity and culture of professionalism.

During the meeting, Harris never mentioned the “GOBC,” an organization that features prominently in a discrimination, harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by PPD officer Lt. Sam De Sylva. De Sylva is a former president of the Pasadena Police Officers Association.

De Sylva’s lawsuit claims PPD harbors an internal police department gang that silences fellow officers through intimidation, retribution and other forms of self protection.

Per the Superior Court filing, the GOBC is alleged to consist mainly of very high-ranking male, white PPD employees. The lawsuit claims there are at least one Lieutenant, a police Commander, a Deputy Chief, a former Commander and the former Chief of Police involved. All are named in the lawsuit.

The details of the attack itself and the GOBC’s retribution, according to the lawsuit, are lurid enough. But the petition begins with perhaps the saddest boilerplate statement ever written about Pasadena.

De Sylva’s lawsuit claims he was hurt on duty in 2021, a knee injury that required surgery to repair. According to the lawsuit, he says he was attacked from behind by Lt. Tony Russo, a supervisor in the PPD’s Traffic Section, who was the target of an internal investigation and a favorite of the Good Old Boys Club.

De Sylva claims the attack occurred after he was named as a witness during an internal departmental investigation into the Traffic Section, of which Russo is a supervisor.

Russo is white, De Sylva is not.

The details of the attack itself and the GOBC’s retribution, according to the lawsuit, are lurid enough. But the petition begins with perhaps the saddest boilerplate statement ever written about Pasadena.

“The Pasadena Police Department (PPD) has a history of discriminatory behavior towards minority employees. Plaintiff has been a victim of this for years.”

The lawsuit does not provide additional details regarding this statement.

De Sylva is requesting compensatory damages, punitive damages, civil penalties, attorney’s fees, filing fees and “such other and further relief as the Court may deem proper.”

“The complaint lodged in the lawsuit has been moved to Internal Affairs for investigation into the claims. Any gang conduct within PPD will not be tolerated and will be met with swift and appropriate action.”

PPD Chief Eugene Harris

We contacted the PPD Chief’s office regarding the allegations made in the lawsuit and received the following text message from Harris:

“In an employment lawsuit filed by an employee of the Police Department there is a claim referencing ‘Police Gangs’ present within the agency. I will not discuss the pending litigation, however, upon my onboarding in January 2023 and throughout my current tenure there have been no reports or other indications of ‘gangs’ within the Pasadena Police Department,” said Harris.

“A thorough review of Department policies, practices, files, and other reference material revealed no evidence of gangs within the organization,” Harris added. “The complaint lodged in the lawsuit has been moved to Internal Affairs for investigation into the claims. Any gang conduct within PPD will not be tolerated and will be met with swift and appropriate action.”


Local News Pasadena thanks Pasadena Black Pages for providing the full text of the lawsuit linked in this article.

The short URL of this article is: https://localnewspasadena.com/pz4d

Phil Hopkins

Phil is the Associate Publisher of Local News Pasadena. He is a 35-year resident of the city and his favorite local delicacy is the Combo Grinder at Connal's.
Email: [email protected]

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