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Syracuse Police Officer sues department for racial discrimination

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News (file photo)

Usually found playing with local kids on the basketball court, Syracuse Police Officer Brandon Hanks is now taking his own department to federal court.

Hanks, who’s Black, said that he was denied a promotion to an all-white gang violence unit after an internal memo by Captain Tim Gay said Hanks is affiliated with gang members. He alleged that the department cited his listening to rap music, among other things, as an indicator of his suggested gang affiliation.

Hanks also alleged the department, including Police Chief Kenton, failed to cultivate an environment that was fair to Black and Brown officers.

One of his lawyers, Jesse Ryder, said Hanks’ legal team is hoping to change hiring practices and culture within the department.

“They need to start hiring more African Americans from the community to be police officers and firefighters,” said Ryder. “They need to get the people in power who are contributing to the division between the police department, their own African American officers, and the African American community–they need to get them out.”

Hanks also included Deputy Police Chief Rich Trudell in his lawsuit over his use of the n-word. But shortly after Hanks’ announcement of his lawsuit on Monday, Trudell released a defense that included an internal memo he’d sent condemning the treatment Hanks was receiving within the department.

“During my 27 years as a police officer, there has never been a claim or allegation against me of a racist nature,” Trudell said in a statement. “I am ashamed to have used certain language as a young teenager. It never occurred as an adult.”

Regardless, the lawsuit has been filed and will next go to a jury trial, which Ryder expects to go well for his client.

“We're very confident in this case,” said Ryder.

Madison Ruffo received a Master’s Degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in audio and health/science reporting. Madison has extensively covered the environment, local politics, public health, and business. When she’s not reporting, you can find Madison reading, hiking, and spending time with her family and friends.