The UCSB police department has come under fire for failing to protect the anonymity of victims and for making inappropriate comments.
According to whistleblower claims against four specific UCSB police officers, the work environment was “offensive and demoralizing” and the inappropriate activity continued even after alerts were issued to the chief, his deputy chief, and his lieutenants.
Furthermore, whistleblowers claim they were targeted after the warnings were given.
Claims include charges of racist language and the sharing of sexually offensive videos for entertainment purposes, including one video linked to a sexual assault.
Officers File Lawsuits Regarding Inappropriate Behavior by Sergeant
The first officer to file a claim against the department was Lieutenant Mark Signa. Signa went on stress leave in June 2018 after speaking to higher ups about comments made by Sergeant Ryan Smith. Signa claims the people who spoke to about the inappropriate behavior only acted to protect the accused.
A second lawsuit was then filed by Corporal Tiffany Little and her husband, Corporal Michael Little. The Littles’ claim described similar circumstances as Signa’s and also added the Little’s felt they were prevented from advancing within the department and were limited to certain work hours despite their seniority. Michael Little also claimed he lost his status as a firearms instructor and was denied a computer forensics position, despite his quarter century or service to the department.
Tiffany Little’s claims include a link to a complaint she filed in 2016 concerning an event on the UCSB campus in which she reported to her commanding officer that multiple officers had entered a UCSB residence hall for a suspicious amount of time with their radios switched off, but nothing was done to discipline those officers. Signa also included this claim in his lawsuit.
Countersuit Filed by Sergeant Claiming On-the-Job Harassment
An anonymous lawsuit, which was eventually revealed to have been filed by Sergeant Smith, contested the Signa and Little allegations and claimed he and two other officers met with Signa concerning the time spent in the residence hall related to civil and criminal investigations. Smith also claimed that two officers resigned and two were put on administrative leave following the incident.
Furthermore, Smith’s claims include accusations about voiced over videos shared among police officers that were offensive and that he asked his bosses to investigate the incident. Smith also claimed he was harassed while on duty by Signa and Little. He resigned in late 2017.
Lawsuits Reveal Pattern of Inappropriate Behavior within Police Department
To date, UCSB authorities have not commented on the cases, all of which paint a picture of misconduct and lack of action by authorities, even if they shed no light on who exactly is at fault in the specific incidences.
UCSB spokesperson Andrea Estrada did state that “When complaints are made internally or externally, they are promptly investigated and appropriate action is taken. Because personnel action is confidential, particularly for peace officers, often co-workers and others are unaware that matters have been investigated and/or that disciplinary action has been taken.”
According to Estrada, the school stands behind its police officers.
Other officers named in the lawsuits have since resigned from the UCSB department and moved onto other law enforcement positions in other states. Signa retired. The Littles are still within the department, which was taken over by a new chief who is a 40-year veteran in law enforcement, in late April.
All of the lawsuits are still pending.