Metro Weekly

Beverly Hills police chief accused of calling lesbian woman “gross” has resigned

Sandra Spagnoli was accused of bullying a lesbian employee after discovering her sexuality

police, beverly hills, sandra spagnoli

Sandra Spagnoli — Photo: City of Beverly Hills

A Beverly Hills police chief accused of anti-gay discrimination and calling lesbian women “gross” has resigned.

Sandra Spagnoli assumed the reins of the Beverly Hills Police Department in 2016 to much fanfare as the city’s first female police chief. But her tenure quickly devolved into a series of lawsuits, discrimination complaints, and allegations of sexual misconduct.

Spagnoli had received a number of complaints, lawsuits, and allegations during her tenure, including accusations of anti-gay, racist, and anti-Semitic remarks. NBC Los Angeles reports that the total cost to the city — comprised of lawsuits, settlements, and jury awards — is more than $7 million.

Sources told NBC Los Angeles that Spagnoli’s sudden retirement this week was the result of an ultimatum, telling her to resign or face termination.

“I am grateful to have served Beverly Hills and proud of the accomplishments over the past 4 years to keep this world-class community one of the safest in the nation,” Spagnoli said in a statement.

Spagnoli was previously accused of responding negatively to both a lesbian employee and a lesbian officer, including allegedly saying “eww” and “gross” after learning that the employee was lesbian, and telling the officer that the thought of her with another woman made Spagnoli feel “sick.”

In 2019, department employee Dona Norris sued Spagnoli for discrimination, alleging that Spagnoli had responded with disgust after learning that Norris is lesbian, Patch reports.

Norris said that Spagnoli avoided her, told others that she didn’t want Norris to touch her, and denied her promotional opportunities. 

At trial, an officer testified that Spagnoli bullied Norris and treated her “like she had a contagious disease.” The officer said that Spagnoli responded to learning about Norris’ sexuality by saying “eww” and “gross.”

Spagnoli was accused of making similar comments by a lesbian officer in the department, Lisa Weller. In her lawsuit, Weller alleged that Spanoli “regularly made disparaging remarks about lesbians in the workplace.”

“On one occasion while referencing lesbian women, Spagnoli stated: ‘the thought of what they do together makes me sick,'” Weller said in her lawsuit, which was later dismissed.

While the exact reason for Spagnoli’s sudden resignation isn’t yet known, yet another lawsuit was filed against her on March 30 by Beverly Hills Police Officer Scott Dibble.

Dibble said he was “denied promotion several times, initially to sergeant because of his refusal to have a sexual relationship with the Chief.”

Spagnoli was also accused of having affairs with, and subsequently showing favoritism towards, two subordinates. Both were later allegedly promoted over other, more experienced officers.

Attorney Brad Gage, who has represented clients in a majority of the estimated two dozen complaints filed against Spagnoli, told NBC Los Angeles: “My first reaction is what took them so long?”

“It does serve as vindication for all my clients,” Gage said, “and I’m hoping that with her departure — the police department can start on the path to the improvements it needs. Unfortunately, there are others who have supported her ideals who remain employed there, so the city has a long way to go.”

Beverly Hills City Manager George Chavez thanked Spagnoli for her service in a statement after she announced her resignation.

“During the Chief’s tenure, crime was reduced while the department increased diversity, public outreach, best practices and advancements in technology,” Chavez said. “We thank Chief Spagnoli for her service to our community and her three decades of public service in law enforcement.”

Spagnoli’s tenure will end on May 15, though she will spend the remainder of her notice period on vacation, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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Shelf Wood
Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's online editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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