Syracuse Police Officer Brandon Hanks has filed a $33 million lawsuit against the city of Syracuse and the police department alleging “blatant and extreme racism,” according to CNY Central.
According to the lawsuit, Hanks claims that he was denied a promotion earlier this year to the Gang Violence Task Force because of racial bias and when his accusations went public he faced retaliation from his department. Chief of Police Kenton Buckner and at least seven other officers are named in the lawsuit.
Hanks is currently the only Black officer assigned to the Gun Violence Suppression Detail and was recommended by Lt. Don Patti to be transferred to the gang unit. If approved, Hanks would be the only Black officer on the task force.
When news of his possible recommendation became known, Capt. Timothy Gay and seven officers on the unit were accused of "taken extraordinary steps to deprive Mr. Hanks of his promotion," the claim read, 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."
A memo circulated that accused Hanks of “affiliating with gang members, listening to rap music on duty, and even being involved in trafficking narcotics.”
Also named in the suit is deputy police chief Richard Trudell over his use of the N-word. Trudell admitted using the word in a deposition seven years ago that stemmed from a previous lawsuit filed against the department.
Jesse Ryder and Charles Bonner, Hanks legal team, called for Trudell’s firing on the steps of City Hall Monday, saying that they believed Trudell’s deposition is an admission of racism.
“Brandon is in his car and there’s a rap song on in the barbershop where the word n----s is heard and they discipline him,” Bonner said. “So they promote the white guy who’s an admitted racist and they deny a promotion to Brandon Hanks, who is out there really doing God’s work.”
Hanks views the treatment he endured from the department as evidence of “Jim Crow culture” in the police department.
"It's a clear, clear, clear-cut example of racism and discrimination," Hanks told The Washington Post, calling his white colleagues' attack on his character "an ultimate violation." "This is what's been going on, and this needs to stop."
Police Chief Kenton Buckner, who is Black, vehemently denies Hanks’ claims.
"I am confident that when all the facts are presented, it will show that the Syracuse Police Department does not maintain a racially hostile work environment and does not otherwise engage in racist employment practices," said Buckner. "I would never tolerate any such practices, and to the contrary, in my seven years as Chief I have taken many steps to create additional opportunities for Black officers, including Officer Hanks."
Hanks, a Syracuse native and former college basketball player at SUNY Morrisville, went viral in 2019 for his one-on-one community basketball games and was honored with the Mayor’s achievement medal. Also, he organized a $10,000 basketball tournament for the Syracuse Housing Authority. He is described as one of the most popular officers on the force.
The lawsuit is seeking $33 million in punitive damages and a judge’s order requiring the city to change the police department by establishing “new programs that provide equal employment opportunities for Black employees, to develop a new system to assign, train, transfer, compensate and promote Black employees in a non-discriminatory manner and to create a task force on equality and fairness to monitor and report on the department’s progress.”