LAPD officer wins more than $1 million in disability discrimination suit

( LAPD )

A Los Angeles police officer who alleged he was discriminated against because of a work-related injury was awarded nearly $1 million by a jury in the fourth trial of his case.

The Los Angeles Superior Court panel began deliberating Thursday afternoon and reached its verdict on Tuesday, finding in favor of Officer Malcolm Thomas, who sued the city for disability discrimination and other causes of action in July 2009.

The current trial dealt only with the disability discrimination claim and the total award was $1,014,000. In the first trial, a jury in July 2010 awarded Thomas about $705,800. Thomas' lawyer at the time, Alan I. Schimmel, said in his final argument that the unit in which his client worked was "more like `Animal House" than `Law and Order."'

The city appealed and a panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal reversed the verdict. Two mistrials followed before the current jury successfully reached a verdict.

The city maintained that Thomas was not discriminated against and that all disciplinary actions taken against him were warranted.

Thomas worked two stints with the LAPD beginning in 1997. He left the department in 2001 and returned in February 2007, when he says the mistreatment started while he was working within the unit that trains LAPD recruits.

Thomas injured his knee while on duty in May 2008 and claimed his sergeant, instead of having sympathy, held it against him and made him do activities that caused his injury to worsen.

Within two days of giving an interview to the LAPD's Internal Affairs division concerning his claims, he was stripped of his gun and badge and stopped being paid, according to his court papers.

Officers also called Thomas "Billy Blanks" and "Tae Bo" in reference to the exercise guru and aerobic workout system he created, according to the officer, who also said he believed that a brown substance smeared on his desk in November 2008 was feces.

Thomas is still a member of the LAPD, said Anthony Nguyen, one of the officer's current lawyers.