Practicing Buddhist-Wiccan Police Officer Sues LAPD for Harassment

Victoria DeBellis was stationed in North Hollywood and then transferred to West Valley.

Officer Victoria DeBellis has sued LAPD for harassment. Patch file photo.
Officer Victoria DeBellis has sued LAPD for harassment. Patch file photo.


City News Service

A female Los Angeles police officer who says she found a "Blues Brothers" movie poster placed near her desk that read, "We're on a Mission from God" is suing the city, alleging she was harassed because of her gender and religion, then suffered a backlash when she complained.

Victoria DeBellis filed the complaint Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging discrimination, harassment and retaliation. She seeks unspecified damages.

"(DeBellis') career has been materially and adversely affected and irreparably harmed and damaged by the conduct of the defendants," the suit states.

An LAPD spokeswoman said today she was unfamiliar with the lawsuit and that the department does not comment on litigation.

According to the complaint, DeBellis joined the LAPD in 1996 and is a practicing Buddhist-Wiccan. After experiencing sexual harassment in March 2011 at the North Hollywood Division, she requested and was granted a transfer to the West Valley Division, where she was assigned to Crime Analysis Detail, the suit states.

While at West Valley a male police officer, Thomas Tenney, in the presence of others made "inappropriate sex and gender-based comments to (DeBellis)" and also mentioned "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," according to the lawsuit.

"You better not rat me out," Tenney once warned DeBellis, the suit alleges.

DeBellis went on maternity leave in July 2012 and returned to work the following January, the suit states. She began to breastfeed her child during breaks as she was entitled under LAPD policy, the suit states.

However, while DeBellis was preparing to take a lactation break in February 2013, Tenney -- who had been reassigned to the Gang Enforcement Detail -- walked over to her and asked, "Are you going to milk it?" according to the complaint.

"(DeBellis) was offended by Tenney's harassing and sexually degrading comment, but walked away from Tenney without responding for fear of further harassment, discrimination or retaliation if she did so," the suit states.

That same month, Tenney came to work with a mark on his forehead obtained from an Ash Wednesday ceremony, the suit states.

DeBellis told Tenney that she no longer practices Catholicism and was now a Buddhist-Wiccan and a priestess, the suit states.

"Tenney was visibly upset and appeared disgusted by plaintiff's comment and told (her), 'Women cannot be priests,"'  according to the complaint.

Tenney later told DeBellis she "cannot switch religions" and that she "will burn in hell," the suit states.

In March 2013, DeBellis found that someone put a "Blues Brothers" poster near her workplace entitled "We're on a Mission From God," a famous line from the hit 1980 film.

DeBellis' partner took the poster down and threw it away, the suit states. When Tenney later noticed it had been removed, he told a reserve officer with him, "Someone stole my poster. I'm going to make a theft report," according to the lawsuit.

After DeBellis explained that her partner took the poster away because she found it offensive, Tenney replied, "Are you kidding?," as he and the reserve officer walked away making light of the incident, the suit states.

On several occasions, Tenney tied several rubber bands together and shot them at DeBellis head on various occasions, including when she was pregnant, the suit states. Tenney joked that he was trying to hit something else, according to the complaint.

Despite her complaints to management and their promises to address her issues with Tenney, DeBellis continued to have problems with him and was threatened with a transfer, the suit states. However, after she persisted with her complaints Tenney was removed to another station last October, the suit states.

But in retaliation for her efforts, other officers in her division began to ostracize her and "treated her like an outcast" for coming forward with her complaints, according to the lawsuit.

The alleged internal backlash against DeBellis continues, the suit states. Last month another officer advised a male colleague of the plaintiff, "You have to watch Victoria DeBellis," according to the complaint.

Don March 31, 2014 at 03:24 PM
Well if all this hate, sexism and race is going on, Chief Beck and all the Commanders and Captains should have their employment contracts terminated If this is a frivolous lawsuit by the officer she should be terminated for fraudulent claims and also pay for attorney and other legal fees associated with the scam One of the other, is the only good choice, for the taxpayers this time. Oh, I'm thinking of the taxpayers? Yes, nobody else appears to be doing so
Kelly Maureen Desmore April 02, 2014 at 01:03 PM
om mani padme hum...blessings to Victoria...


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