Last year Cleon Brown, a 19 year veteran of the Hastings, MI, police department, sued the city for $500,000, claiming that although he’s white, he was harassed by his colleagues after his Ancestry.com DNA results showed he was 18 percent African. The city didn’t go for that amount, but he is receiving $65,000.
The trouble began in 2016 after Brown received the results from the DNA test. He claimed that the other officers would whisper “Black Lives Matter” and pump their fists when Brown walked by. Brown says even the police chief got in on it, calling him “Kunta” in reference to a character from Roots), CNN reports.
The city statement said,
During this most recent holiday season, a good friend of Brown found a tan color ceramic Santa head sitting in his own stocking with “18%” written on it. Not knowing where it came from and knowing his friendship with Brown, the officer placed it in Brown’s stocking. The officer who placed the Santa in Brown’s stocking then went to Brown to apologize for doing so, since he heard that Brown was upset about the incident.
Speaking to CNN affiliate WDIV, Brown said “I call it straight up racism.”
According to CNN, the city disputed Brown’s claim before the settlement: “Other officers have stated that after Brown first told them about the test results they never approached him about it again. Instead, it was Brown who specifically went to other officers, raised the topic, joked about it, and engaged in typical racial stereotypes. Clearly, Sgt. Brown welcomed his interaction with other officers on this topic.”
Brown’s attorney Karie Boylan says that Brown is disappointed with the outcome. Brown will be put on paid suspension until the end of October, and then he’ll be required to resign, according to WWMT. As part of the settlement, Brown is not allowed to get a job with the city of Hastings.
In a statement given to WWMT, Hastings city manager Jeff Mansfield said, “The city did not believe the lawsuit had merit. But when comparing the settlement to the cost and disruptive effect of defending the case. It was in the city’s best interest to resolve the case on the terms in the mediated settlement agreement.”
Brown is planning to sell his home and seek employment elsewhere. Boylan told CNN, “They didn’t want this to be a big case. He was hoping that by filing the complaint the harassment would be over, but it wasn’t.”