Cop Files Civil Rights Suit After Discovering He's Part Black
Cleon Brown says he faced 'straight-up racism' from other cops and city officials
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted May 12, 2017 12:49 PM CDT
Officer Cleon Brown is suing the city of Hastings after he found out he's 18% sub-Saharan African.   (Hastings Police Department)

(Newser) – For most of his 47 years, Michigan police sergeant Cleon Brown lived life as a white man—then a DNA test last year showed he's 18% sub-Saharan African. Now, Brown has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Hastings, the New York Times reports. He tells WDIV he's faced "straight-up racism" from fellow officers and city officials. Brown says he was "proud" when he got the results of the DNA test, but his fellow officers seemed confused why he'd feel that way. Brown's lawsuit claims he was called "Kunta" by his chief and had fellow officers whisper "black lives matter" at him when they passed. He says the mayor at the time used a joke with the word "Negroid" around him, and someone put a black Santa in his department Christmas stocking.

Brown is seeking at least $500,000, claiming he's suffered stress and related health complications from his coworkers' behavior, CNN reports. The city is contesting the lawsuit, claiming it was Brown making racial jokes. The city says officers never brought it up, but Brown kept approaching them and saying things like he now gets why he "likes chicken so much" and "the 18% is all in my pants." Furthermore, the city says Brown has a history of making disparaging comments about black people. For his part, Brown says the experience has made him better understand the animosity between the black community and police. He says he's been reading articles and watching YouTube videos on the issue.

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