Security company claims LAPD blacklisted its employees, thwarted its business

A private security firm that guards Los Angeles Police Department impound lots claims in a federal lawsuit that at least 10 of its employees have resigned after they were repeatedly blacklisted, bullied and sexually harassed by LAPD officers.

Abet Security Services Inc., based in Walnut, filed a whistleblower complaint in U.S. District Court last month against the city, former LAPD Detective Benjamin Jones and LAPD Officer Eric Rose seeking unspecified damages.

Jones, who has retired from the LAPD, was responsible for investigating crimes at the city’s impound lots while Rose is executive director of the Official Police Garages Association of Los Angeles, which represents 18 private firms that operate the vehicle storage facilities.

The Los Angeles Police Commission regulates and sets rates for impound lots.

In addition to guarding the lots, Abet also has contracts with Los Angeles to protect City Hall, a 911 dispatch center and the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys.

Abet, which has provided security guard services for Los Angeles for about six years, alleges the city and its police officers have conspired to persuade impound lot operators to cancel contracts with the company, resulting in a revenue loss of more than $6 million.

“Abet is incredibly disappointed at the abusive behavior directed at our employees by officers and command staff of the LAPD,” Jeff Angile, a spokesperson for Abet, said in a statement.

“As a woman-owned, minority business operating in Los Angeles for nearly three decades, we remain shocked at the blatant disregard for the safety and well-being of our officers,” Angile said. “While we have supported the city of Los Angeles and the LAPD, it has become clear that the city of Los Angeles is not concerned with protecting the rights, safety and integrity of its security contractors.”

The lawsuit also alleges the LAPD maintains a secret list of security officers that it does not want Abet and other vendors to assign to city facilities.

“This list violates (the) city’s own equal opportunity employment policy by blacklisting individuals who may have done nothing wrong or whose wrongdoing does not rise to the level of deserving banishment from city employment and employment-like contracts,” says the complaint. “(The) city also requires Abet to add the names of Abet employees to the list on the whim of mid-level and lower-level LAPD officials.”

The LAPD declined to comment Friday because litigation is pending.

Abet also alleges the city has failed to pay the company in a timely manner and has delayed granting security officer permits.

False claims by LAPD alleged

At the beginning of 2019, Abet was responsible for security at 14 LAPD impound lots. It currently staffs three facilities in Los Angeles.

The lawsuit alleges that on March 1, 2019, Jones directed Rose to instruct all OPG association members to cease employing Abet personnel because it falsely claimed the Los Angeles Police Commission’s Investigation Division determined the company was not licensed by the city.

“If you are using Abet Security Services, you need to stop immediately,” Rose wrote to association members in an email obtained by the Southern California News Group.

Jones’s statement was “patently false” and carried “immense force,” the lawsuit states. Jones could not be immediately reached for comment.

Shortly after the first email, Rose sent another email to OPG association members clarifying that LAPD was working with Abet to bring the firm into complete compliance with city permitting requirements.

“I am happy to report that some Abet Security personnel have the required permits to work at an OPG,” the email said. “If you are using Abet, so that you do not violate any board rules, the association suggests that you ask Abet Security only to send security personnel that has a current business tax registration certificate.”

According to the lawsuit, within three months of Rose’s email, Abet lost more than 80% of its OPG customers. “Several of Abet’s OPG customers told Abet that they would like to continue to work with Abet but they feared similar retaliation by detective Jones or other city officials if they did,” says the complaint.

The Southern California News Group could not immediately verify Abet’s claim that it has proper licenses from the city

However, one OPG operator, who asked not to be identified because of a fear of retaliation from Abet, said Friday he stopped employing Abet security guards because the company increased its rates, not because of Rose’s email.

“The bottom line is that Eric had nothing to do with things other than passing information along,” the operator said.

Rose denied any wrongdoing. “The allegations contained in the complaint regarding my actions are baseless, a work of whole fiction, and nothing more than a desperate attempt to embarrass the LAPD,” he said in an email. “The plaintiff’s arguments are not supported by the facts or the law. After all the evidence is presented, I am confident the court will conclude that the actions of all the officers involved were appropriate.”

Abet filed an LAPD internal affairs complaint against Jones, who was exonerated in June 2020 following what the lawsuit described as a “sham investigation.”

Harassment claims

The suit also alleges Abet’s staff was harassed with impunity by the multiple LAPD officers assigned to the Security Services Division, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of city facilities, elected officials and municipal workers.

“Those abusive employees initiated aggressive confrontations, turned what should have been at most simple disagreements into vendettas, and abused Abet staff with sexual pressure,” the suit states.

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One of Abet’s female security officers alleged that LAPD Lt. Michael McComas pressured her to leave her post at City Hall, paraded her through the corridors of the building, and later sexually harassed her by describing his activities at a strip club.

“McComas’s description of his actions, the offensive language that he used … and innuendo regarding what he wanted to do sexually to (the employee) caused her to report the misconduct and request a transfer to be away from McComas,” the complaint states.

McComas could not be immediately reached for comment.

Last month, Abet sent an email to the LAPD officials stating that due to “countless episodes” of intimidation, physical and verbal assaults, and an overall hostile work environment it could no longer send security guards to the Tillman facility, according to the lawsuit.

“City officials offered no reply to any of Abet’s reported incidents, no acknowledgment of any issues, and no solution to protect the safety of Abet staff,” the lawsuit says.

About two weeks later, the city removed Abet from the Tillman facility, according to the complaint.

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