The city of Hastings, Mich., has settled with a decidedly white officer who claimed he was racially discriminated against after his colleagues found out he was 18 percent African after he got back DNA test results from genealogy site Ancestry.com.
Cleon Brown sued the city for a hefty $500,000 last year, but the city will shell out a cool $65,000 to settle. For now, Brown will be on paid suspension until the end of October, at which point he will be required to resign, WWMT reports.
According to CNN, Brown’s attorney Karie Boylan said her client was disappointed with the outcome of the case. As part of the settlement, he will also be unable to seek employment with the city of Hastings, thus prompting the officer to plan to sell his home and look for work outside the city.
“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,” Boylan 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,” Hastings city manager Jeff Mansfield told WWMT.
Brown filed his lawsuit last year, claiming that he was subjected to racial taunts and other hurtful comments from within his own department of his Ancestry.com results came back.
He claimed that the Police Chief Jeff Pratt called him “Kunta” after the character in Alex Haley’s Roots: The Saga of an American Family, while other officers whispered “Black Lives Matter” and pumped their fists in the air as they walked by.
Even the mayor joined in on the racial harassment, Brown claims.
Former “Mayor [Frank] Campbell saw [Brown], smiled and said, ‘Hey, I got a joke for you guys,’ and proceeded to tell a racist joke using the word ‘Negroid’ at least two or three times,” the lawsuit claimed.
The Christmas prior, the department had hung stockings with the names of the officers on the Christmas tree. A black Santa figurine with “18" written on its white beard was put in Brown’s stocking, the suit claimed.
From the jump, the city had disputed the claims in the lawsuit, insisting that Brown was the one who started the whole thing and kept on joking about it even as the police had ordered the racial comments to stop.
As for the Santa incident, that did happen, the city acknowledged, but the officer that put the figurine in the stocking apologized to him following the incident.