Communications & Dispatch, News, Patient Care

Combat Medic Turned Dispatcher Sues for Unfair Firing

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An Army veteran diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder is suing the city and the Albuquerque Police Department, claiming she was assaulted, discriminated against and wrongly fired.

The city says the allegations are not true.

Judith Busto, 22, was hired as a dispatcher in May 2006 after she returned from work as a combat medic in Afghanistan. The suit was filed by Santa Fe attorney Merit Bennett and seeks unspecified damages.

The lawsuit tells a story of escalating trouble between Busto and APD, starting when the department allegedly failed to make accommodations for her post-traumatic stress disorder, and ending when she was fired and allegedly taken to the Veterans Hospital in handcuffs.

“The allegations are factually inaccurate,” Deputy City Attorney Kathy Levy said. “We feel confident that once discovery is commenced, what actually occurred will come out.”

According to the lawsuit, Busto had an episode in October 2006 and took more than the usual dose of her medication. When authorities arrived, Busto said she didn’t need to be taken to the hospital.

According to the suit, an officer allegedly “threw her to the floor, forcefully placed his knee on the back of her neck and handcuffed her.”

The suit says the next day, Busto did not go to work because the episode had triggered her stress disorder and she had a medical appointment.

According to the lawsuit, an APD employee offered to send an officer to take her to her appointment, but when the officer arrived, Busto was ordered to come out of her house with her hands in the air and not to make “any sudden moves.” She was allegedly taken to her doctor’s appointment in handcuffs.

The next day, Busto found that her access badge didn’t work, according to the lawsuit.

When another employee let her inside, she was handcuffed, taken to the veterans hospital and told without explanation that she had been fired, according to the suit. It said that the state Labor Department found her termination was not justified.

“It’s scary, you know, because all I was trying to do was serve my city,” Busto said in an interview. “You’d think they (APD) would be more understanding of military people who have served their country and have come home. They made me feel like a freak.”