Ex-police lieutenant sues Southfield over alleged demotion, retaliation

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

A former Southfield police officer is suing the city amid claims superiors demoted and mistreated her after she reported a colleague’s conduct.

Christine Kinal was “an exemplary employee” before her promotion to lieutenant of the Southfield Police Department's Investigations Division in March 2017 and seemed on track to become deputy chief, according to the lawsuit filed this month in Oakland County Circuit Court.

In October 2018, she and a sergeant reportedly told the deputy chief, Nick Loussia, about multiple complaints against a civilian employee who had been “making inappropriate and offensive racial and sex-based comments, including about ‘dirty Albanians’ and ‘dumb c***s' being in charge in the office,” the filing stated.

The deputy chief and the worker “were well-known to be close friends,” Kinal’s lawyers said in the filing.

After an unsuccessful meeting during which Kinal and the sergeant addressed the complaints and department policy with the employee, she filed a formal complaint; he was eventually terminated, according to the suit.

Loussia then stopped communicating with Kinal outside of email, "began bypassing plaintiff in the command structure in violation of policy, and plaintiff was afforded less mentorship opportunity and direction,” the filing said.

Kinal claims she alerted human resources officials and the city attorney that she feared retaliation; in January 2019, the deputy chief accused her of insubordination regarding overtime and said “he was thinking of making a change regarding plaintiff’s job position, stating that not liking someone is a perfectly good reason to fire them,” according to the suit.

On Feb. 1, 2019, the lieutenant filed a formal complaint against Loussia with human resources and the legal department. Less than 25 minutes later, he informed her through email she would be transferred, the suit said. Kinal was demoted to the midnight shift with a rotating schedule on patrol while a “significantly less qualified” man replaced her as lieutenant, attorneys contend.

Kinal went on medical leave from July 2019 through early 2020, “when she was forced to return with the threat of her retirement date being moved,” her lawyers said. “Though she was not medically ready, plaintiff returned to work, where she continued to face retaliation. As a result of this retaliation, plaintiff had no choice but to enter into early retirement in June 2020.”

Leaving the job was “devastating,” said Jon Marko, an attorney representing her. “It’s particularly devastating when you have someone like her who devoted her entire adult career to this profession and then to have a career destroyed in literally a moment because she did the right thing.”

Reached Friday, Michael Manion, a representative for the city of Southfield, told The Detroit News in an email: “The city does not comment on pending litigation.”

Loussia, who has since retired from the Police Department, could not be reached.

Kinal's lawyers argue the city violated the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act by creating a hostile work environment, treating her differently than men and retaliating for speaking out.

“It takes a lot of courage for someone to come forward and bring these things to light,” Marko said. “Things won’t get better unless courageous people like my client shine a light on these illegal practices.”

The suit seeks a jury trial and damages.