We’ve become familiar with Newport Beach for one high school’s Rent scandal. Now, the town is on our radar again because “[police] Sgt. Neil Harvey, a 27-year veteran of the force, said he’s been denied a promotion from sergeant to lieutenant numerous times because he is perceived among colleagues to be a homosexual and a whistle-blower.” And now he’s suing the department for discrimination.
At times, the sergeant was choked up when he spoke of insults that he recalled, including being called a derogatory term for a homosexual, “Sgt. Death,” and being referred to with other demeaning sexual epithets. Harvey said the rumors, which started near the time he became employed in Newport Beach, may have started because he is unmarried and spent time working as an ocean lifeguard in Laguna Beach and in the Hollywood division of the Los Angeles Police Department. In testimony Friday, Harvey and his lawyer identified more than 20 people who Harvey claims have made comments about him through his tenure.
Harvey elaborated Monday, and said his training officer, Trent Harris, referred to him with a sexually derogatory term on repeated occasions. “I felt terrible,” Harvey said, adding that he had asked Harris to stop. “He just laughed and would stop, then would do it again some other time.”
Harvey, who has not taken a leave from his job during the trial, said his boss, Police Chief John Klein, who was in the courtroom, had been derogatory. Harvey said Klein, when he wasn’t chief, had told him to not buy a house in Laguna Beach based on the perception that he was homosexual. Officers David Moon and David Byington were also mentioned by Harvey, who said the two had referred to him derogatorily as a homosexual at a party at Klein’s house a decade ago. Harvey also said his marital status came into question under former Chief Bob McDonnell, saying “I felt I had to justify being 33 years of age and not being married.”
And the police department’s defense? That the officers were just joking around, because that is completely acceptable and certainly can’t qualify as discrimination!
Attorney James B. MacDonald, in a Tuesday afternoon cross-examination of Harvey, set out to describe the insults as playful banter common among men.
“(Have you) heard other officers in the Newport Beach Police Department call each other ‘fag’ in just a joking way?” MacDonald asked.
“I have,” Harvey responded.
In that same line of questioning, MacDonald sought to ferret out inconsistencies in Harvey’s testimony. On Monday, MacDonald said, Harvey recalled an officer targeting him with a homosexual slight that did not come across as humorous.
But Harvey’s deposition suggests that remark was in fact lighthearted, MacDonald said.
“I believe he might have had a joking tone,” Harvey conceded.
MacDonald made other attempts to imply Harvey was being overly sensitive and making assumptions when he leveled allegations about homophobia. One officer, Harvey recalled, once made a comment about homosexuality being a sickness.
Asked if the comment was directed at him, Harvey responded: “I don’t know.”