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Two officers released from police department

Pair could still appeal dismissal to city's Civil Service Commissions.

August 18, 2011|By Veronica Rocha, veronica.rocha@latimes.com

Two Glendale police officers who were put on administrative leave for alleged misconduct are no longer working for the department, officials said.

Police spokesman Sgt. Tom Lorenz confirmed that Officer Michael Lizarraga was officially separated from the department as of Aug. 2; Officer Marc Mendoza was separated on June 22.

Police officials declined to comment on the cause for their separation, citing personnel matters.

Lizarraga and Mendoza were the latest officers to be cut from the department since April, when one of three officers who allegedly took a patrol car on a joyride to Las Vegas was fired. The other two officers allegedly involved in that incident were fired in March.

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Glendale Police Chief Ron De Pompa on Thursday declined to discuss specific cases, but said the department is made up of people who are only human and who sometimes make mistakes.

“Occasionally, when they do, we take the appropriate corrective action,” he said, adding that despite the incidents, “this is a highly professional organization.”

Lizarraga is being sued by Glendale attorney Robert Yousefian, who claims the officer improperly arrested him on drug and assault charges in August 2007. At the time, Lizarraga was involved in an affair with Yousefian’s estranged wife, Nora Yousefian.

Yousefian was eventually acquitted of all charges after a 35-month investigation, but he claimed his civil rights were violated.

Calls to Yousefian’s attorney were not returned Thursday.

The case was transferred last month from the Los Angeles County Superior Court to U.S. District Court.

Senior City Atty. Carmen Merino, who represents the Police Department, declined to comment on the case and any personnel matters related to Lizarraga.

But she said the city is required to defend all employees who are sued for an issue that occurred while working for the city.

Details about Mendoza’s separation weren’t released and officials declined any comment.

However, in testimony relating to a lawsuit he filed against the city in May 2010, city officials stated concerns about his job performance.

Mendoza sued the department in May 2010 for wrongful demotion, harassment, discrimination and retaliation, which he claimed stemmed from his friendship with Glendale police Sgt. Vahak Mardikian, who was in charge of the burglary detail.

Mardikian, three current police officers and a former officer are suing the department for discrimination and harassment due to their ethnic backgrounds.

At the time of the lawsuit, De Pompa stated in a court declaration for the city that he was aware of deficiencies in Mendoza’s job performance as a burglary detective.

De Pompa stated that Mendoza failed to file criminal charges against two burglary suspects he was supposed to be investigating in March 2010 in a timely manner. Mendoza’s safety tactics also came into question during a parolee search in April 2010.

In April, Mendoza dropped his case with prejudice, which bars him from filing another lawsuit based on the same allegation.

Mendoza and Lizarraga can still appeal being cut from the department with the city’s Civil Service Commission in attempt to retain their jobs. Attempts to contact the two via their legal representatives were unsuccessful.
 
 

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