A white police sergeant is suing the city of Hastings, Michigan and the police chief claiming he was subjected to racial taunts after telling colleagues a genetic test showed he was 18 percent African-American.
Sergeant Cleon Brown says he received test results from Ancestry.com showing that he was part black. He shared the results with his colleagues, which is when he claims the racism started.
In the complaint, Brown said the police chief Jeff Pratt had called him “Kunta” after the character in Alex Haley’s novel ‘Roots,’ while other officers would whisper ‘Black Lives Matter’ and pump their fists as they walked past.
When the department celebrated Christmas, Brown’s stocking on the on the tree contained a black Santa figurine with ‘18%’ written on its white beard.
Brown also claims that the mayor, who retired in January, told racist jokes. He is suing for state and federal civil-rights violations, a violation of the state’s Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, and a asking for damages for infliction of emotional distress.
The lawsuit was prompted by Brown filing a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on January 4.
Following the filing, Brown’s attorney, Karie Boylan, said the police chief and deputy then “conducted highly coercive, offensive, intimidating employee interviews asking only leading questions.” He was dropped from the annual charity basketball game, ignored, and the police chief asked him to return to patrol rather than sergeant duties.
The city of Hastings is fighting back, with its lawyers arguing that Brown may not qualify as a protected class simply based on a genetic test.
Racial discrimination laws are “not designed to protect those who can demonstrate some trace amount of a particular race or geographic origin,” the city said.