Well-known officer accuses Syracuse Police Department of ‘extreme racism’ and ‘Jim Crow culture’

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — One of the city’s most-recognized police officers, Brandon Hanks, plans to sue the Syracuse Police Department for what he considers “blatant and extreme racism every day” and “engaging in Jim Crow culture.”

Officer Brandon Hanks became known in 2019 for hosting one-on-one basketball matches for children to win a pair of sneakers if they score on him first.

Officer Hanks claims he was denied a promotion because of his race and because other officers fabricated evidence as to why he shouldn’t be promoted.

The lawsuit’s initial documentation claims that when Officer Hanks was recommended to be the only African American promoted to a specialty gang-fighting unit, other members of the police department conspired to prevent the transfer from happening.

The lawsuit claims a captain on the unit “recruited” six other officers to “dig up dirt” on Hanks, which resulted in a memo that called him a “gang member,” a “narcotics trafficker,” “gang affiliated,” and listens to “rap music.”

Hanks’ attorneys call the allegations against him in the memo false and fabricated. Below is the memo in question, sent on April 8, 2021.

Memo by NewsChannel 9 on Scribd

At the swearing-in ceremony of 42 new Syracuse Police recruits, neither Mayor Ben Walsh and Chief Kenton could confirm the merits of the case, but both pledge to working toward finding the true.

Chief Buckner said, “I’ve asked the public and our officers to remain calm and patient, allow all the facts to come out. I think that everyone needs to be heard.”

Mayor Ben Walsh said, “We have pushed towards including more training, trying to make sure we are giving the officers all the tools they need to make it a fair and equitable place, but like any other institution or place of employment, there’s room for improvement.”

The lawsuit also says that Hanks has “experienced and witnessed other African-American employees subjected to retaliation and discriminatory treatment.” Below is the lawsuit in full.

Lawsuit by NewsChannel 9 on Scribd

In addition to $33 million in retribution, the lawyers are asking that the Syracuse Police Department to fix the practices that led to discrimination against their client, along with a establishing a task force on equality and fairness.

Mayor Walsh, who awarded Hanks the Mayor’s Achievement Award last year, said: “When officers do the right thing, we’re going to support them. When they don’t, we’re going to hold them accountable. So we will review the facts and if it’s determined if officers did not do the right thing, we will hold them accountable.”

In a statement on Friday, Walsh also had this to say:

I do know Officer Hanks, and I’ve seen his work in the community. He’s been a great representative of the Department with our young people, and I was honored to award him my Mayor’s Achievement Award late last year. The allegations are concerning and hard to read. Chief Buckner and I share a firm commitment to ensuring the SPD is a fair and equitable department with its officers and with the community. That is what we are striving for every day.

sYRACUSE mAYOR bEN wALSH

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