Orange County Register, Huntington Beach – Adam Bereki said his book “Friendly Fire” is really two books in one. One side is his perspective on being a gay police officer for the Huntington Beach Police Department and the second is his journey after he settled a discrimination lawsuit with the city awarding him about $2.15 million, he said.
My hope for this book is simply that it will touch people, and that any who has ever felt ‘different’ (and who among us hasn’t?) will be able to relate in some way,” he wrote in the introduction. “I am proud of the person I am becoming, and don’t regret a thing that has ever happened to me.”
Huntington Beach Police Chief Ken Small, who was chief when Bereki was an officer, said he disagrees with the book’s accuracy.
“Based on the excerpts people have shown me … this book definitely belongs in the fiction section,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Orange County Register.
Bereki’s 160-page paperback released in March details alleged harassment by law enforcement peers from 2006 to 2007. He said the book is factually based except for names he changed because of legal concerns.
“Though California is viewed by much of the country as one of the more gay-friendly states in the union, the Huntington Beach Police Department seemingly occupies an island of its own, pinned in a period of time that runs prior to enlightenment,” he wrote in the book’s forward labeled “The locker room.”
“The organization is well stocked with a wealth of good ol’ boys who may as well have a sign hanging from the door of their clubhouse reading, ‘No fags allowed.'”
Bereki, now 30, said after the lawsuit was settled in 2008, he took about a year to write the book and travel to the Philippines, Thailand, Rome, Greece, Turkey and South America. By writing, he learned to no longer “hate myself as a young gay man” and rework his philosophy of law enforcement.
“It might sound crazy but I know (the discrimination) is the best thing that could have happened to me,” he told the Register. “They were brutal experiences but it kind of was someone slapping me in the head with a frying pan and saying you need to change your perspective.”
Bereki, who lives in Costa Mesa, said he is now more “comfortable in my own skin.” His plans are to promote his book and bring more awareness of gay issues. He is no longer a police officer.
“I found a peace and freedom in my life that I never knew possible,” he said.
Bereki received a $150,000 lump sum payment to end his lawsuit as part of a settlement approved by the City Council in April 2008. He also receives a monthly $4,000 disability payment for the rest of his life – a payout that could reach upward of $2.15 million, records show.
This was the first lawsuit of its kind brought against the police department. A second discrimination lawsuit was brought against the city in May 2008 by a lesbian city jailer who said she was harassed by her peers and then pressured not to file a formal complaint.
However, an Orange County Superior Court jury decided against the jailer, Catherine Denise Cranford, in March. Crandford has since asked for a new trial.
Bereki’s book is available on Amazon and at FriendlyFireTheBook.com