Copping an Attitude

Public complaints about racism have created firestorms of recrimination at the Glendale police department. Is psychological counseling a remedy for the conflict -- or retaliation against officers who spoke out?

That day, Lieutenant Wells cleared Whitson of "dishonest testimony or perjury concerning this case." He also concluded Whitson had violated policy by continuing to talk with Withey after he'd invoked his rights.

Whitson says the "memo of correction" put in her personnel file was the first disciplinary action against her in 14 years on the force, including two as a police dispatcher.

But the benign result did not pacify Whitson, especially on the heels of the June 6 meeting at assistant chief Felice's office--the one in which counseling was ordered.

On June 16, she and Balkcom wrote separate letters to Felice that summarized their impressions of the testy session.

"Chief Felice," Whitson wrote. "I feel I am maliciously and vindictively being retaliated against because of the New Times article--not only by you, but by your supervisors. I feel the internal complaint is a continuation of this retaliation. I feel you have clearly violated my civil rights by ordering me to attend psyche counseling as a direct result of the New Times article and not job performance."

Felice responds with a surprising touch of self-criticism:
"I honestly don't know what I expected when I called that meeting, but what happened there wasn't it. Maybe I somehow could have handled things better. But I still think Jan's letter was intentionally dishonest. She tried to make it as if I have this evil motive, but I honestly don't. This wasn't about discipline, it was supposed to be about healing. Frankly, things went very poorly."

In late June, Whitson met with Chief Dobrotka and Glendale assistant city manager Ed Beasley at City Hall. (Balkcom was on vacation and couldn't attend.)

"We obviously had some concerns--are we being set up for a lawsuit of some kind?" Dobrotka says. "And I know Jan comes to the table thinking conspiracy. According to her letter to Felice, the plot includes white males. Ed Beasley happens to be a black man, so I hope she felt more comfortable there."

She did.
"I told Mr. Beasley--who seemed to be listening sincerely--what I've been telling everyone else," Whitson says. "Treat Jan Whitson straight up, and you won't have a problem with her."

Nothing of substance was resolved at the meeting.
Dobrotka's exasperation with the situation oozes out as he sums up the astonishing animus inside his agency.

"At some point," he says, "depending on what the psychologist says, I might sit everyone down in a room and say, 'Dammit, folks, this is what you're going to have to do in order to survive here. This is a police department.'

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