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Black Police Officer Files $33M Lawsuit; Alleges The Department Cultivated A “Jim Crow culture”

A Syracuse, NY police officer filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Syracuse and the police department on Monday. The $33 million lawsuit alleges the police department cultivated a “Jim Crow culture”. 

The lawsuit claims Syracuse Police Officer Brandon Hanks was denied a promotion to the Gang Violence Task Force earlier this year because of racial bias. Hanks alleges that Capt. Tim Gay wrote in an internal department memo that Hanks is affiliated with gang members in an effort to deny him the promotion. 

The memo accused Hanks of affiliating with gang members, listening to rap music on duty and even being involved in trafficking narcotics.

According to the lawsuit, Hanks’ supervisor, Lt. Patti, recommended he be transferred to the gang unit due to his “high level of performance.” If approved, Hanks would have been the only Black officer on the task force. 

Hanks alleges the department used his listening to rap music, among other allegations, to justify a belief that he has ties to gang members and deny him the promotion. 

The lawsuit states that seven officers on the unit, including Capt. Gay, “have taken extraordinary steps to deprive Mr. Hanks of his promotion,” including “a covert investigation into Mr. Hanks life and publishing a memorandum whereby they have fabricated a false persona of Mr. Hanks with the intent of destroying his career.”

The lawsuit charges the department’s middle-management with blocking Hanks from assignments because of his race. Hanks alleges his supervisors were suspicious of his background as a Black man in his hometown.

The suit also includes Dep. Chief Richard Trudell over his use of the N-word. Trudell admitted to using the word in a deposition back in 2014 that was related to a previous lawsuit filed against the department. 

Trudell was part of a lawsuit filed by community service officer Sonia Dotson. The suit alleged the department discriminated and retaliated against her. A federal judge removed Trudell from the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit also alleges that the police department and Police Chief Kenton Buckner created an environment that systemically discriminates against Black officers by allowing hostile work conditions that included racial harassment, racial stereotypes, and treating Black officers as inferior. 

Hanks is seeking $33 million in punitive damages.

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