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2nd Wiccan Police Officer Sues LAPD for Harassment

Sgt. A.J. DeBellis, married to Officer Victoria DeBellis, who filed the first complaint, likewise alleges discrimination.

A second LAPD officer and practicing Wiccan has sued the department. Patch file photo.
A second LAPD officer and practicing Wiccan has sued the department. Patch file photo.

By BILL HETHERMAN

City News Service

A veteran Los Angeles police sergeant is joining his LAPD officer wife in suing the city, alleging he was also discriminated against because of his Wiccan religion and experienced a backlash when he complained to management.

Sgt. A.J. DeBellis, like his wife, Officer Victoria DeBellis, alleges discrimination, harassment and retaliation and seeks unspecified damages.

An LAPD spokesman declined to comment on the latest complaint, which was filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

A.J. DeBellis, who joined the LAPD in 1990, alleges the retaliation began after he complained about having to attend a mandatory training session and holiday gathering in December 2012 at the main chapel of The Church at Rocky Peak, a Christian church in Chatsworth.

The chapel displayed "religious iconography" and religious music was played "during a significant portion of the event," according to his lawsuit. DeBellis, who was assigned to the Devonshire Division at the time, says he also was required to sit through a recital of a Christian prayer.

"As a practicing Wiccan, (DeBellis) 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," the complaint states.

He says that after hes complained to a captain and a lieutenant, the two supervisors "verbally berated (DeBellis) and issued him three negative comment cards in retaliation for what he reasonably believe to be religious-based harassment and retaliation."

According to his lawsuit, DeBellis was also unexpectedly given a shift change and was stripped of the chance to fill in as watch commander when the regular officer was unavailable.

DeBellis says he sent an email to Chief Charlie Beck, who said he would refer the complaint to his chief of staff.

'To date, plaintiff has not been contacted by Chief Beck or by his chief of staff," according to the suit, which also alleges DeBellis was coerced into attending a departmental meeting about his complaints without having his lawyer present.

During the meeting, a supervisor gave him another comment card reminding him of "the core expectations the department has of you as a department supervisor," according to the lawsuit.

In April 2013, someone put a flier in his department mailbox noting an upcoming day of prayer for fallen Devonshire Division officers under the heading, "One Nation Under God," according to the plaintiff.

"The flier was yet another act of retaliation for plaintiff reporting his opposition to the department's religious-based misconduct," the suit alleges.

DeBellis claims he continues to be subjected to retaliation, including being denied necessary disability insurance when he returned from back surgery in December.

In her suit, filed March 26, Victoria DeBellis says she found a "Blues Brothers" movie poster placed near her desk that read, "We're on a Mission from God."

The officer, who joined the LAPD in 1996, alleges a colleague at the West Valley Division harassed her because of her gender and her Wiccan religion. She also claims that LAPD management did not take sufficient steps to correct the problems.

In retaliation for coming forward, other officers in her division began to ostracize her and "treated her like an outcast" for coming forward with her complaints, according to her lawsuit, which says the alleged internal backlash against the policewoman continues. Last month another officer advised a male colleague of the plaintiff, "You have to watch Victoria DeBellis," according to her complaint.

lewis cook April 09, 2014 at 01:42 AM
Homosexuality is against the pre{ devils 666 holllywood }sane us govt laws and if you do not concur with that you are insane via the devils tv radio 666 hollywood and be it known that 666 is the three digit number of hollywood on the la calif police map.
lewis cook April 09, 2014 at 01:49 AM
This whole post 1960 tv tv govt naval maritme govt age has been the devils age and 90 % of the earths population born since 1960 when everyone in usa began to go under the devils tv radio magic mind control spell and it was to have ended after mr hollywood 666 reagan did the 11 sep 2001 disaster which was to be folloewed via the biblical mark of the 666 beast,i was us army 1979 to 1981 and 666 united states marine apr 1982 to jun 1982 and i lived in 666 hollywood in my vehichles from 1985 to 1998 and i shook gods hand at santa monica calif in 1986 thus is why i know what i know, santa monica is approx 10 miles from hollywood devils hollywood...
Tatyanna M. Wilkinson April 09, 2014 at 01:01 PM
Since none of you above are lawyers nor have you read the complete complaint, how do you know this is just a money grab or unfounded? I was let go from a job once and my boss, during the exit interview mentioned by spiritual practice and that she really respected me professionally but not personally. I *could* have sued because it was clear to me..after months of chatter...that I was being let go partially in part because of my spiritual practice(not Christian) and partially because they had to cut a staff person to save money. Why not cut the "heathen"
lorrie mcvicker April 09, 2014 at 03:20 PM
don't forget there are two sides to every story. Both probably have good reasons.
Mary A April 10, 2014 at 01:06 AM
Sorry, I'm a Christian, but I side with the Wiccans based on the information in this article. No one should be forced to be involved in religious ceremony as part of required workplace training, or retaliated against because they voiced their opposition. I have a lot of respect for the LAPD and for all people and places of worship that do good works. But on this one the LAPD blew it.

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