Hastings blames officer for racial ‘jokes’


HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — In response to allegations that a police officer was harassed about his racial makeup, the city of Hastings says the officer in question brought it up and himself made inappropriate jokes about it.

In his lawsuit, Sgt. Cleon Brown claims his bosses and co-workers started harassing him after a test through an ancestry research website revealed he is 18 percent black.

But in a response filed with the court, which was 24 Hour News 8 on Monday, the city said Brown himself would mention it to his co-workers.

“The topic of Brown’s heritage was basically forgotten by the members of the Department until Brown would bring it up again so as to joke about it,” the response from the city reads in part.

The city also claims that some of the jokes Brown made about his own racial makeup were based in stereotypes and inappropriate.

>>PDF: Complete response from the City of Hastings

The most public evidence that Brown cited appeared on a Christmas tree in the lobby of the police department, where decorations included Santa figurines bearing the names of each officer. Brown’s Santa was had darker skin tone and “18%” was written on the beard.

The city acknowledged that incident happened and said the officer responsible apologized to Brown. The city said that at the time, Brown indicated to Chief Jeff Pratt that he “was not upset and that he was proud of his African heritage.” Still, the city says the chief instructed all officers that no further joking about Brown’s heritage would be tolerated. The city said that incident was the last of which it was aware.

Brown is suing the city for at least $500,000. He is still on the force.