A Los Angeles County jury, after two days of deliberation, found that the Long Beach Police Department selected the most qualified applicant when it selected another police officer over the plaintiff, Wendy Starbird.
Starbird, a Long Beach police officer, filed the lawsuit claiming that the Police Department discriminated against her when she was not selected to be a Tactical Flight Officer in the Department’s Air Support Unit. A Tactical Flight Officer assists the Police Department’s helicopter pilot, and coordinates with police officers on the ground during tactical operations.
During a three week trial, Starbird, a nineteen year veteran with the department, claimed that she was the most qualified applicant for the Tactical Flight Officer position from a field of five applicants. Starbird was the only female. She argued to the jury that the only reason she was denied the position was because of her gender. The City, however, maintained that while Starbird was qualified for the position, the male applicant who was ultimately selected was the most qualified.
In reaching the verdict, the jury determined that Starbird’s gender played a part in the selection process; however, the jury ultimately concluded that the Police Department selected the most qualified person for the position, regardless of gender.
The jury also unanimously found that the Police Department did not retaliate against Starbird for filing this lawsuit when she reapplied for, but was denied, the same position almost a year later.
As a result of this, the jury awarded Starbird no damages.
The case was tried by the Long Beach City Attorney’s Office. Haleh Jenkins handled the defense of the case for the City.