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California Police Officer Sues for $1.5M Over Demotion

OCEANSIDE, Calif. --

An Oceanside police officer who said he received a demotion for reporting a supervisor's racist remarks filed a $1.5 million lawsuit on Tuesday that alleges workplace retaliation within the Oceanside Police Department.

Officer Aaron Miller told 10News the ordeal began more than a decade ago when his supervisor, current Capt. Tom Aguigui, made racial remarks which included one on the phone after another supervisor approved a vacation.

"He said, 'Listen, you rice-eating Filipino bastard. I'm not going to tell you again. If you want time off, ask me,'" said Miller.

Miller filed a complaint with superiors but wasn't told if Aguigui was disciplined.

According to the suit, eight years later, Aguigui was assigned to an internal probe, after Miller turned in his partner and Aguigui's friend –Detective Brian Bruce – for allegedly stealing on the job.

A police spokesperson confirmed Bruce resigned in December, and the case against Bruce has been referred to the district attorney's office. The spokesperson declined to comment on the investigation, but sources told 10News the alleged thefts involved items taken from crime scenes, including laptops and iPods.

During the probe, Miller lost his detective's shield. Miller said the reason he was given was that he should have reported earlier incidents such as like when his partner ended up wearing a t-shirt he had left in the patrol car. Miller said that explanation is ridiculous since the t-shirt incident didn't raise red flags.

When asked why he thought he was demoted, Miller answered, "I think it was pretty much payback for me for making the discrimination claim."

Dan Gilleon, Miller's attorney, told 10News, "This was the first opportunity for the superior to retaliate against Miller and he took that opportunity. It's also mind-boggling they'd put him [Aguigui] in charge of a case involving Mr. Miller."

Miller told 10News he's filing suit because the public is constantly told to report wrongdoing and police must follow their own advice.

"It's the right message to send," he said.

Oceanside police declined to comment because they have to be served the lawsuit. 10News couldn't reach Aguigui or Bruce for comment.

The case against Bruce is the second recent incident involving an Oceanside police officer and theft. Last June, former police Sgt. Walter McWilson was sentenced to a year in jail after pleading guilty to receiving stolen goods. His girlfriend used her company credit card to buy him nearly $23,000 in goods.

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