EXCLUSIVE: DC police officer wins lawsuit for discrimination as Catholic, Marine veteran

FOX 5 Chief Investigative Reporter Emily Miller reports.

- A D.C. officer filed a lawsuit against the police department for discriminating against him based on his religion and his military service.

Officer Joe Tridico said he was harassed daily in the Sixth District department. He sued the city and the police department for discrimination – for being a former Marine and a practicing Catholic.

He won in a jury trial on Friday.

“He’s a tough guy,” said Tridico's attorney, Brian Markovitz. “He was in the Marine Corps Reserve and he’s a cop. But it was daily – being subjected to him day after day.”

In court, Tridico said he was praying before eating one day and made the sign of the cross. His sergeant pointed at him and shouted, “Look at him. That’s why he's so weird. He believes in that weirdo Jesus.”

Tridico's lawyer said that started the daily harassment of his faith.

“It sort of morphed itself into a nickname for him, which became ‘weirdo’ and they just continually called him that, and that was a direction reference to his faith and it was triggered by him praying that time,” said Markovitz.

The Christian persecution did not end there.

“At one point, they hung up a picture of the pope right next to his desk,” Tridico’s attorney said. “It was John Paul II and they put the word ‘weirdo’ over it.”

The jury also agreed that the officer was harassed for serving in the military. In court, Tridico said his sergeant referred to him as “psycho” and “killer” – assuming that he had killed people while in the Marine Reserve. Then others followed the sergeant’s lead.

“They hung up a picture also next to his desk area that said the word ‘killer’ on it,” said Markovitz. “There was a lot of talk that he sort of had this mental illness, that he had post-traumatic stress disorder. None of which is true.”

The jury also said Tridico was retaliated against by the police department after he appealed for help up the chain of command.

“They essentially didn't do anything to help him, and what they did eventually is they transferred him to another unit and left the individuals who were harassing – they didn't take any recourse against him,” Markovitz said.

The jury only awarded Tridico $20,000. But the officer's immediate reaction to the verdict was positive.

“He was very pleased, he’s glad he got some vindication,” said Markovitz. “He hopes that other officers will come forward now and recognize that they can actually have justice happen for them. His statement to me was he didn't join the police force to get rich.”

A spokesperson for D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said they are declining to comment on the ruling and referred me to the D.C. attorney general. His spokesperson pointed out that the jury ruled in favor of the city in two of the cases.

Officer Tridico has been transferred and promoted. His lawyer said he is now happily servicing now in the Third District detective unit.

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