It's Just A Movie? E-mail
Written by Jose Torres   
Should a police officer lose his job just for appearing in a pornographic movie?

That's the question posed in the termination of former Hollywood, Florida police officer Michael Verdugo. A fifteen-minute appearance in a bondage scene in a film called "Rope Rituals" cost Verdugo his job. Now he's fighting to get it back.

At the time he was fired, Officer Verdugo was also appearing as himself on the Home and Garden Television network's "Design Star" - a home makeover program.

Now he's preparing to sue the police department for discrimination.

Hollywood police fired Verdugo after the 1996 bondage video turned up on the Internet.

"I don't regret it," Verdugo, 35, told the Miami Herald's Steve Rothaus regarding his one-time appearance at age 22 in an adult movie. "It was a time in my life that I wanted to explore."

Verdugo says he performed nude in the short scene, but didn't engage in a sex act. "It was all role-playing bondage. I was tied. I used handcuffs later on in my career."

Just after the video turned up in July 2008, Hollywood police put Verdugo on administrative leave with pay. An investigation followed and the department fired him a little under a year ago for not disclosing on his police application that he had made the porn film.

An arbitrator recently upheld the termination.
Verdugo has now asked his attorney, Alberto Milian, to file a civil lawsuit against Hollywood police for wrongful termination and discrimination.

"When you're a gay cop in a paramilitary organization like law enforcement, a lot of discrimination exists," Milian told the Herald's Steve Rothaus. Milian is a Coral Gables criminal defense attorney who also specializes in labor law for police officers and firefighters.

"He was a damn good cop. This guy was an asset, and there's no doubt his talents were very useful to the people of Hollywood."

The city denies firing Verdugo, the one-time undercover officer, because he is gay.

"This had nothing to do with Mike Verdugo's sexuality. It had to do with his honesty. The application process to become a police officer is very arduous," Hollywood spokeswoman Raelin Storey told the Herald.
Hollywood Police Chief Chad Wagner determined Verdugo had not been honest on his application because he did not mention the fact that he had appeared in a pornographic movie, Storey said.

"That was why he was let go."

Verdugo said he didn't think it was necessary to put the movie on his resume when he first became a Lauderhill cop in 1999, or when he applied to the Hollywood department two years later.

He believes his sexual orientation had plenty to do with his firing, that if a male cop appeared nude in a straight porn film, his police buddies would be "high-fiving him in the hallway."

Not many police officers are open about their sexuality, Verdugo said.

"Just a handful," he said. "They don't want to come out because they see what happened to me. It's a double-edge sword," Verdugo said.

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