Michigan DNR Facing Complaints of Racism

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- A state investigation of a black conservation agent's complaints found evidence of racism and a culture of oppression and fear in the Department of Natural Resources agency's law enforcement division.
The two-month investigation looked into the treatment of the only black female conservation officer among 10 blacks in the DNR's Law Enforcement Division. The probe concluded that Lt. Linda Copeland-Morgan endured intimidation, exclusion and threatening behavior on the job, including racially offensive references made in her presence or about her.
The Detroit resident is a 27-year veteran of the department, as well as its highest-ranking black conservation officer. She was among four employees who sued the DNR in 1991 claiming racial and sexual discrimination and accepted a $240,000 settlement.
The latest investigation started when Copeland-Morgan wrote Gov. Jennifer Granholm about her treatment.
"I'm trying to make sure that nobody else has to endure what I've endured," Copeland-Morgan told the Lansing State Journal for a story Sunday.
Her September letter to Granholm said she experienced harassment and sabotage while working for the DNR. Granholm replied and expressed regret that Copeland-Morgan had "experienced racial discrimination."
Granholm wrote that she had instructed her staff to take Copeland-Morgan's complaints to DNR Director Rebecca Humphries.
State investigator Cheryl Strayhorn ended her probe Nov. 30. She wrote that there was a "pervasive perception ... of exclusion, avoidance, intimidation and fear" that "serves to ... restrict Lt. Morgan and supervisors, managers and employees from reaching their potential."
Strayhorn specifically accused three DNR managers, who she named. She concluded that one superior acted in a "threatening and intimidating manner" toward Copeland-Morgan.
Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd and DNR spokeswoman Mary Dettloff declined comment on details of the report, saying it remained under review.

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