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Family of Calif. police captain files wrongful death lawsuit against city

Capt. Fred Bobbitt died by suicide in February 2022; the family believes “inaction by city officials caused Bobbitt emotional distress”


Photo/YouTube via KTVU News

By Ashley Silver

FREMONT, Calif. — Family members of Fremont Police Capt. Fred Bobbitt recently filed a lawsuit placing the reason for his death squarely on the city.

CBS News reported that the family believes “inaction by city officials caused Bobbitt emotional distress.” Bobbitt died by suicide on February 21, 2022.

Bobbitt allegedly faced retaliation from former Fremont City Manager Mark Danaj and former Fremont Police Chief Kimberly Petersen in 2019 after Bobbitt’s refusal to violate the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act — a California law governing labor-management relations for local government employees.

Bobbitt received a separation agreement from the city attorney a month later, but rejected the measure, leading to his removal from the patrol division and a reassignment to an administrative position. He was also placed on a performance improvement plan.

Consequently, Bobbitt submitted a complaint of discrimination and retaliation to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, according to Courthouse News.

Months later, he filed a follow-up claim at the end of 2019, detailing ongoing retaliation and other violations with the city. This time, an arbitrator found Danaj and Peterson violated the city’s anti-retaliation policy. This caused the arbitrator to rescind the performance improvement plan, expunge any negative comments in Bobbitt’s personnel file and immediately reinstate Bobbitt to his position leading patrol.

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing informed Bobbitt the following year that the city was declining mediation regarding his retaliation complaint. At one point, Bobbitt informed his wife he no longer felt safe going to work because he feared that he would be placed on a “5150 hold,” Courthouse News reported.

Bobbitt died by suicide shortly after “without any warning” and did not leave a note, according to his family. The family believes the city is responsible for Bobbitt’s mental distress, leading to his death.

A statement from the city acquired by CBS reads:

Earlier today, the Bobbitt family announced that they are filing a lawsuit with the Alameda County Superior Court, seeking wrongful death damages against the City of Fremont. While the City has yet to be served with a complaint, the copy of the lawsuit linked in a recent press article unfortunately mischaracterizes facts and alleges substantial inaccuracies about the direct roles of the current City Manager, Police Chief and Mayor. In May of 2021, Fred Bobbitt filed a grievance with the City of Fremont. In December 2021, following formal arbitration, the arbitrator determined that the City’s previous administration had violated the City’s anti-retaliation policy. The current administration took immediate steps to carry out the arbitrator’s ruling and complied fully with the arbitrator’s decision.

The City of Fremont and its employees have shown strong support to the Bobbitt family over the last several months and the family continues to have our deepest sympathy during this difficult time.

The city has declined to comment further on the matter due to pending litigation.