SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The well-known Syracuse Police officer who plans to sue the department for discrimination now claims he’s faced retaliation because of his legal action.
According to court documents filed Wednesday, Officer Brandon Hanks claims employees within the Syracuse Police Department “immediately retaliated… by disciplining him for a social media post whereby rap music can be heard playing in the background…”
On June 26, Officer Hanks filed the beginning paperwork of a lawsuit that claims he faces “blatant and extreme racism every day” and “Jim Crow culture” within the Syracuse Police Department. Hanks feels his race and a racist smear campaign were the reasons he was denied a position on a specialty unit.
The smear campaign, according to Hanks’ attorneys, was organized by a captain and resulted in fellow officers gathering Hanks’ social media history, which includes Facebook videos that show him with rap music playing in the background.
Then, on July 1, Officer Hanks was sent a letter from Syracuse Police Deputy Chief Joseph Cecile reprimanding his conduct. The letter, included in the updated legal filing, reads “you posted a brief social media video wherein you are wearing what appears to be garments of your duty uniform… while music with racial slang is being played.”
Cecile cites a clause of department policy labeled “‘prohibited speech, expression and conduct’ in social media.”
Cecile’s letter to Hanks continues: “It has therefore been determined that you will receive this written reprimand. You are reminded that future acts in violation of the above policy would bring discredit upon yourself and this Department and would be dealt with more severely.”
Thursday, the Syracuse Police Department confirmed to NewsChannel 9 that Hanks’ reprimand was not about the type of music, but the fact that it contained racially insensitive language. Further, Syracuse city leaders say the decision to reprimand Hanks was made before his initial legal filing.
The legal filing argues that the music in the background was not played by Hanks’ but was coming from another source.
Hanks’ attorneys say he’s also facing peer retaliation from lower-level supervisors and colleagues within the department.
The claim details a text message sent from a Syracuse Police sergeant to the head basketball coach at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, where Hanks serves as an assistant coach. According to the complaint, the text message called Hanks “you boy” who played the “race-card.”
After the initial filing in June, Mayor Ben Walsh told NewsChannel 9: “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.”
Walsh has previously awarded Officer Hanks the Mayor’s Achievement Award for his work building relationships with community members, including his basketball challenge that allows children to win a pair of sneakers if they score on him first.