Lieutenant alleges discrimination in lawsuit against APD, municipality
A police lieutenant is suing the Anchorage Police Department and municipality, alleging racial discrimination in the department's promotions.
Lt. Jared Tuia, who is Samoan, has been employed by APD for two decades. In a civil complaint filed in October, Tuia claims he was passed over for a promotion to the rank of captain on three occasions — in 2015, 2017 and 2018, — while lieutenants with less tenure and fewer qualifications were promoted instead.
He also says he experienced retaliation after asking about why he was denied the promotions.
According to the complaint, when Tuia requested a debriefing regarding the denied promotion in 2015 he was told he could accomplish great things, "somewhere other than the APD."
When he requested a debriefing again in 2017, Tuia claims he was not provided one, but rather transferred to the property crimes division. Similarly, the complaint states he was not provided a requested debriefing in 2018.
"After Tuia started inquiring why he had not been promoted he started experiencing frequent transfers. Between 2015 and 2018 he was transferred more than any other Lieutenant at the Anchorage Police Department," the complaint states.
Tuia's complaint states that the promotions were not based on performance evaluations, because APD does not have performance evaluations.
"Instead the evaluation process for promotion to Captain is limited to an interview process, which consists of 10 questions and is entirely subjective in nature, lending itself to discriminatory bias."
The complaint also references an alleged conversation about the promotions between a retired APD lieutenant and the department's current deputy chief.
"Recently retired Lieutenant John McKinnon asked Deputy Chief Ken McCoy why the particular Lieutenants in the 2018 promotion to Captain process were selected and was told the Chief of Police knew who he was going to promote before applications were even solicited."
Through his complaint, which calls APD a "predominantly white police force," Tuia claims the Municipality of Anchorage violated its own equal employment opportunity and anti-discrimination policy.
Tuia filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission in September 2018, according to the complaint. He claims he later received a "right to sue letter" from the EEOC in August 2019 "after the defendants refused to mediate the dispute."
In a response to Tuia's lawsuit filed by attorneys for the municipality, the city admits that APD does not have formal written performance evaluations, but denies that debriefings were not provided after the 2017 and 2018 promotion denials.
The municipality also denies Tuia's claim that he was transferred out of retaliation, writing "all Lieutenants at the Anchorage Police Department experienced similar transfers and reassignments as Lt. Tuia during this time frame."
The response to Tuia's complaint also argues that the municipality attempted to resolve the dispute before the filing of the lawsuit.
"Defendants actively participated in the EEOC mediation process."
Tuia has filed a motion demanding a trial by jury, while the municipality is seeking to have the case moved into federal court — where it has been forced to pay out millions of taxpayer dollars to former APD officers who have sued in recent years.
The municipality lost a nearly seven-year legal battle against two former APD detectives who sued over racial discrimination. Not only did they win almost a million dollars each, but a judge awarded them doubled attorney's fees in 2017.
The judge also wrote a scathing review of the municipality's litigation practices, accusing it of employing "hide the ball litigation tactics" and "dirty tricks."
In November 2018, a former APD lieutenant won a wrongful termination suit against the municipality and a federal jury awarded him nearly $2.3 million. After an appeal and more litigation, the parties settled on $1.87 million, but the municipality's attorneys costs and court fees added up to a total tab of more than $4 million for taxpayers.
In an email Friday, municipal attorney Rebecca Windt Pearson declined to comment on the case, citing pending litigation.
An APD spokesperson confirmed Tuia is actively employed, leading APD's property crimes unit.
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