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Jurors award $11.5 million to former LAPD K9 handler who claimed discrimination over Samoan heritage

Mark Sauvao and his K-9 partner,
Source: Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA — A jury this week awarded $11.5 million to a former Los Angeles police K-9 handler who sued the city alleging that his supervisors retaliated and discriminated against him in part because of his Samoan ancestry.

The officer, Mark Sauvao — pronounced "su-VOW" — alleged he was unfairly punished after he reported some of his colleagues had called him names such as “cannibal” and “barefoot coconut tree-climber.” One supervisor also reportedly referred to him as being Tongan; Sauvao took the comment as an affront given the bitter early history of war and enslavement between Samoa and Tonga.

Sauvao, who is still with the department, also alleged that officers spread false rumors that he tried extorting fellow K-9 handlers by refusing to train them unless they gave him their overtime hours.

The city can still challenge the size of the jury award.

From 2005 to 2017, Sauvao was assigned to the department's elite bomb detection K-9 unit. The 30-year LAPD veteran said his troubles began several years after his promotion to dog trainer, which came with extra pay and benefits.

Read more at LA Times