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University of California hit with $7.2 million jury verdict over firing of Black police officer

Ethan Baron, The Mercury News on

Published in News & Features

SAN JOSE, Calif. — A jury has awarded more than $7 million in damages to a former University of California policeman who claimed he was illegally fired because he is Black.

Former U.C. Santa Cruz Police Department Lt. Glenn Harper — who had previously worked as an officer in the San Jose Police Department — sued the U.C. Regents in 2019, alleging that his race “was a substantial motivating reason” for his 2017 termination.

On Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court, a jury took three hours to return a unanimous verdict in favor of Harper and award him $7.2 million in damages.

Harper’s firing resulted from an internal dispute over a firearms investigation, according to his lawsuit. Until he was fired, he had 27 years of experience as a policeman without disciplinary measures against him, the lawsuit said. His “excessively punitive” termination showed racial bias, his lawsuit claimed, because a White officer allegedly lied about him and received only an order to get counseling.

Harper said in his lawsuit that he had been one of only five Black sworn police officers in the U.C. Santa Cruz Police Department since it was formed in 1965.

 

A spokesman for U.C. Santa Cruz said the school was disappointed by the verdict.

“As the university maintained throughout the litigation, Glenn Harper’s employment was terminated in 2017 after multiple instances of unprofessional conduct,” said Scott Hernandez-Jason, assistant vice-chancellor of communications at U.C. Santa Cruz. “The university is considering its options for appeal.”

A lawyer for Harper, Harry Stern, said Wednesday that Harper was fired for yelling at a sergeant who had “botched” the firearms probe.

“This was the sort of case that ordinarily would result in a reprimand or maybe a one-day suspension,” Stern said.


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