You can't find a more ideal example of a great police officer in California than John Hougan was at the Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD).
It is not just that Hougan was excellent at crime solving.
Unlike other Orange County cops--including several warped officers inside the NBPD, the 22-year veteran wasn't a hot-head with the sensibilities of obnoxious teenage jerks looking for opportunities to flex power**.
He is an honorable, mature man who never considered his badge a cheap ticket to lie, cheat and abuse citizens.
I can make those assertions because as a journalist who has covered crime in Southern California for nearly 17 years, I've watched Hougan--the lead detective in the infamous Haidl Gang Rape case--in action.
But, sadly, being a decent cop and an even better human being doesn't always win friends.
This week, Hougan filed a civil lawsuit that outlines alleged disgusting conduct by fellow NBPD cops after he refused to lie for police management in a lawsuit brought by another abused officer, Sergeant Neil Harvey.
Put under oath during the Harvey matter, Hougan admitted that Captain Dale Johnson, one of the officers promoted over Harvey, had impregnated an informant despite being married, repeatedly bragged about his sexual escapades on duty and used work time for a sexual rendezvous with a mistress, according to the lawsuit.
Hougan also testified that Police Chief John Klein, who retired after the Harvey verdict, had handcuffed a drunk female officer to a bed after having a three-way sexual romp and that the other male was then promoted over Harvey, who Klein erroneously believed was gay and, thus, worthy of being crapped on even though he was a superb cop.
Despite the sensational nature of the observations, a 2009 Orange County jury found Hougan more credible than a slew of higher ranking officers (including Johnson) who insisted the department was ethically spotless and that nobody had rigged promotions for management-favored cops over a more qualified, independent Harvey.
The jury awarded Harvey $1.7 million in damages including lost wages and retirement benefits.
According to Hougan's lawsuit, he returned to the NBPD after testifying in the Harvey case and was called a "traitor." He found a picture of a bomb taped to his office desk. [City Manager Dave Kiff: Are you going to tolerate police officers committing crimes on your watch?] He also claims in the litigation that Captain Johnson called him into his office to express displeasure that he had not regurgitated management's spin to the jury.
Police management then decided to perform what they called a "random audit" of Hougan's office computer and allegedly found "out of policy computer use." In response, Hougan--who had a blemish-free, 20-year career to that point--was demoted from sergeant to officer.
The next step of retaliation occurred when Lieutenant Jeff Lu announced that the department had opened an internal investigation into--get a load of this pathetic crock--whether Hougan had run over a bird while patrolling the beach.
(No related dead bird was ever found.)
Several months after the fowl incident, NBPD threw caution and respectability to the wind and fired Hougan based on the alleged computer misuse from a year earlier.
According to Hougan's lawsuit, the department also harassed his wife, who worked as a police dispatcher.
Superior Court Judge Linda S. Marks has been assigned to handle Hougan's case, which was filed by John A. Girardi and Lawrence J. Lennemann.
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**Howya doin, ex-Lt. Craig Fox, Kent Eischen and Ryan S. Walker?