Wiccan cop couple sues LAPD for harassing them over their religion
Two members of the Los Angeles Police Department have filed separate lawsuits accusing fellow officers of harassing them because they are Wiccans.
City News Service reported on Tuesday that Officer Victoria DeBellis filed her suit late last month, accusing colleagues in the West Valley Division of treating her “like an outcast” over her faith, including placing a poster from the movie The Blues Brothers near her desk that read, “We’re on a mission from God.”
Her complaint also contends that she was harassed because of her gender and that supervisors did not do enough to address the situation. The 18-year veteran also alleges that one officer advised another male colleague, “You have to watch Victoria DeBellis.”
DeBellis’ lawsuit also specifically names one colleague, Thomas Tenney, accusing him of making derogatory comments regarding “his dislike and disrespect for women, including his own wife, mother, in-laws and several female officers Tenney supposedly tried to have fired because of their incompetence,” then threatening her, saying, “You better not rat me out.”
DeBellis’ husband, Sgt. A.J. DeBellis, filed his own lawsuit last week, saying he was targeted for retaliation after complaining about attending a mandatory training session in December 2012 for officers and “holiday gathering” at the deparment’s Devonshire division inside a Christian church, during which religious music was played and a Christian prayer was recited.
A.J. DeBellis’ suit said he “was deeply offended by the department’s decision to conduct the training session and holiday gathering at a religious facility and reasonably believed that the event violated the Establishment Clause and separation of church and state.”
Supervisors then allegedly “verbally berated” him for bringing the issue to their attention, and an email to Police Chief Charlie Beck’s chief of staff was never returned.