Hastings police sergeant sues chief, city for racism

Posted at 11:28 AM, May 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-09 11:38:02-04

Sgt. Cleon Brown (Photo: Court documents)

HASTINGS, Mich. — A veteran police sergeant with the Hastings Police Department is suing the police chief and the city, saying he was the subject of racial discrimination.

A complaint filed in federal court alleges state and federal civil rights violations, detailing events following a genetic test Sgt. Cleon Brown took through revealing he is 18 percent black.

Brown claims after he revealed the test results, Hastings Police Chief Jeff Pratt called him “Kunta”, a character in the novel “Roots: The Saga of an American Family by American author Alex Haley.”  The lawsuit also alleges some police department employees started whispering “Black Lives Matter” while pumping their fists as they walked past Brown.

The lawsuit also includes photos of Sgt. Brown’s stocking on the police department Christmas tree from December 2016, where Brown alleges Hastings Police Sergeant Kris Miller placed an African-American Santa figurine with “18%” written on it.

In January 2017, a complaint of discrimination was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  The lawsuit also details a series of events following the January 2017 complaint filing which Brown says has prevented him from adequately performing his job.

Brown is a combat veteran, serving in the U.S. Army during the Gulf War.  He was stationed in Korea, the lawsuit says.  The lawsuit also says due to injuries suffered in combat, Sgt. Brown is 30% combat disabled.  He was awarded an honorable discharge following seven years of service in the Army, National Guard and Army Reserves, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also explains the stressful work environment has also led to health complications for Brown, who’s seeking compensation and damages.

Read the lawsuit here

A statement on behalf of the city was forwarded to FOX17 Wednesday morning: Hastings city statement