HASTINGS, Mich. (WILX)- A white Michigan police officer who recently found out he is part African-American, is now suing his own police department for racial discrimination.
Sergeant Cleon Brown, a 19-year veteran of the Hastings police force, claims he has been racially discriminated against by fellow officers and the Hastings police chief after they found out about his heritage.
Brown was curious about his heritage and took a genetic test through ancestry.com in December. The test results showed he is 18% African.
Brown says he’s always been curious about his heritage. “There’s always been questions reference my dad. He had darker skin and black curly hair,” says Brown. “My oldest daughter was born with a medical issue and the specialist thought there was African heritage in our blood line".
Brown says the taunts started after he shared the test results with his fellow officers in blue. “They were real quiet to me and in police work, you have to communicate,” says Brown. He filed an EEOC discrimination complaint but says things only got worse. Brown says he found a black Santa Clause figurine with 18% marked on it on a station Christmas tree. He also alleges the Hastings police chief called him "Kunta" after Kunta Kinte in the popular Alex Haley book, "Roots". "With the chief calling me Kunta, that was in a lobby full of people,” says Brown.
Brown has filed a federal civil rights suit for $500,000 and is demanding Chief Jeff Pratt resign. But a Hastings city attorney says it was Brown who joked about him being part black. The attorney says Brown said he now knows why he likes chicken so much and that the
“18-percent was all in his pants.” Brown refutes that.
“I don't joke like that. I can't even watch a movie with the GD word in it."
Brown says his lawsuit is not about the money. "Absolutely not, from the beginning we said this was about them making a hostile work environment,” he adds. The city acknowledged the “Black Santa” incident in a statement but said that the officer responsible apologized to Brown. The attorney says Brown cannot sue for racial discrimination because he does not appear to be African-American.
The city has released an official statement which is attached to this article.