City Urges Dismissal of Former SWAT Sergeant's Whistleblower Suit

Special Forces Team

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A lawsuit filed by a former longtime Los Angeles police sergeant, who alleged the SWAT unit is run by a "SWAT Mafia" of veteran officers who favor using deadly force and ostracize those who oppose their behavior, should be dismissed because he is not the whistleblower he claims to be, the City Attorney's Office contends in new court papers.

Sgt. Tim Colomey joined SWAT in 2008 and was the most senior sergeant in the unit. He filed his whistleblower retaliation lawsuit in January 2021 in Los Angeles Superior Court.

"Under the surface ... SWAT is controlled by a group of (officers) who glamorize the use of lethal force and who direct the promotions of officers who share the same values while maligning the reputations of officers who do not," according to the suit, which seeks unspecified damages.

But according to court papers filed Monday with Judge Jon R. Takasugi asking for dismissal of the plaintiff's suit, Colomey has not presented a basic case for whistleblowing because he did not engage in "protected activity" as required by the state Labor Code.

"In other words, plaintiff is not a whistleblower," the City Attorney's Office's court papers state. "The conduct plaintiff reported consists solely of internal personnel matters."

Finding that Colomey's complaints constituted whistleblower activity "would thrust the courts into micromanaging SWAT's training, selection, internal communication between supervisors and non-supervisors, deployment practices and the LAPD's use of force investigations," the City Attorney's Office further argues in its court papers.

The LAPD SWAT unit has been the subject of extensive investigation and analysis, resulting in changes designed to improve SWAT that are ongoing, the City Attorney's Office's court papers state.

Colomey was hired in 1995, joined the LAPD SWAT Unit as a sergeant 2 in September 2008 and remained in the unit until October 2019. From 2013-18, Colomey was the primary supervisor over the SWAT training school through which candidates are selected to join the unit.

According to Colomey's suit, SWAT lieutenants and sergeants are all aware of the alleged SWAT Mafia's existence and influence and a significant number of the supervisors participate both in acquiescing to the group as well as in undermining nonconforming officers and supervisors.

In addition, SWAT's command staff are aware of the "serious and systemic problems that are linked to the SWAT Mafia's power, but they have all turned a blind eye to these problems," the suit alleges.

"Tragically, the SWAT Mafia's substantial influence, combined with supervisors' implicit sanctioning of that influence, has ultimately served to poison the entire unit," the suit states.

For example, SWAT officers who have chosen not to use lethal force in suspect encounters, and who have instead sought to deescalate conflicts, have been ostracized and labeled "cowards" by the "SWAT Mafia," the suit states.

"These officers will never succeed or promote within SWAT," the suit states.

In September 2018, the LAPD's Internal Affairs unit began investigating a complaint that compared the culture within SWAT to the LAPD Rampart Scandal from the late 1990s, the suit states. Colomey was interviewed in March 2019 and revealed how the "SWAT Mafia" members exert control over the unit, the suit states.

"Soon thereafter, SWAT Lt. Lee McMillion began treating plaintiff with hostility and criticizing him for trivial matters," the suit states.

Colomey left SWAT in 2019 for a post at Los Angeles International Airport. A hearing on the city's dismissal motion is scheduled Aug. 15.

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