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When Sgt. Cleon Brown of Hastings, Michigan, got the results of an Ancestry.com genetic test back, he discovered that 18 percent of his DNA come from Africa. According to MLive.com, that was the start of string of racially offensive incidents.
The episodes included reportedly being called “Kunte” (as in Kunta Kinte from Roots) by his police chief, Jeff Pratt. Supposedly, his fellow officers also taunted him by whispering “Black Lives Matter” when they crossed paths.
Perhaps one of the most public incidents came around the holidays when the Hasting Police Department hung Santa ornaments on the Christmas tree in the lobby. Brown’s Santa was Black and had “18 %” written on its beard.
On top of that, Brown’s attorney claims that the now-retired Hastings mayor Frank Campbell made racial jokes as well.
As Brown’s attorney, Karie Boylan told CBS Detroit, “There was an instance where my client was talking to the mayor, and the mayor ― upon learning that my client was 18 percent African-American ― proceeded to tell him a racist joke”
Shortly after thereafter, Brown filed a federal lawsuit against the city, Campbell, and Pratt among others. The Huffington Post reports that he is seeking $500,000 in the suit, which alleges that he has suffered state and federal civil-rights violations. Brown’s legal rep said the entire situation has created a hostile work environment for the officer.
“These are law enforcement officers,” Boylan told WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “These are people who are supposed to understand cultural sensitivities.”
However, the city of Hastings release a statement blaming Brown for the fallout, claiming that he was the one who repeatedly mentioned his ancestry and made racially charged jokes about it. According to the statement, Brown told Pratt that he “was not upset” about the jokes and alleges that he expressed pride in his African roots.
The city also stated that Pratt told officers that jokes about Brown’s heritage would no longer be tolerated.