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Black State Troopers Win Lawsuit Against Department for Racial Discrimination, Return to Work and Face Same Issues

Michigan State Trooper Darzeil Hall assisting at the scene of an accident. Photo by Kathleen Galligan, Detroit Free Press.

Michigan State Trooper Darzeil Hall assisting at the scene of an accident. Photo by Kathleen Galligan, Detroit Free Press.

Two Black police troopers from Michigan were awarded $5.2 million in a racial discrimination lawsuit against their department. Now they’re suing once again, claiming they faced retaliation from co-workers for filing a lawsuit in the first place.

Longtime Michigan State Police troopers Darzeil Hall and Lamarr Johnson say that ever since they returned to work following their legal victory against the department, Hall has been been subjected to petty attacks while Johnson was unfairly denied attempts at promotion, the Detroit Free Press reports.

“When you embarrass the department, when you take a stand for what’s right, they see it as heresy,” Hall told the Free Press in an interview. “Instead of correcting the wrong … they’ll just go forth and take it out on the trooper that took a stand.”

Hall also revealed that in the two years following the lawsuit, his superiors began aggressively criticizing his conduct. He recalled a time when he made a minor mistake on his daily report, which resulted in an internal affairs investigation. His take-home squad car was also taken away, his gym access card deactivated, and he received a “needs improvement rating” on an annual evaluation for the first time in his 20-year career, according to the Free Press.

“I’ve never gotten anything like that,” Hall said. “In year 20, I just forgot how to do my job?”

Despite holding a master’s degree in public administration, Johnson claims he was denied at least five promotions after the lawsuit ended.

Hall and Johnson’s new lawsuit came amid efforts from the department to increase diversity among its ranks, the Free Press reports. They aren’t the only troopers who have come forward and accused the department of discrimination.

According to the Associated Press, Leonard Mungo, attorney for Hall and Johnson, has filed a total of eight lawsuits in Wayne County Circuit Court on behalf of police troopers who alleged unfair treatment by the department on the basis of race or gender.

Aaron Darkins, formerly the only African-American officer of the police canine unit, was one of those troopers. He sought the attorney’s help after he was demoted for leaving a Detroit Lions football game in the fourth quarter when his superiors thought he should be supervising, Mungo says. According to the Free Press, Darkins was also accused of putting in for too much overtime.

Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, the police department’s director, vehemently denies the “unconfirmed allegations” and asserts that the department would never discriminate against one of its own, per the Free Press.

“The only pattern that can be found amongst these lawsuits is a common attorney who has characterized his clients’ allegations as discrimination or retaliation,” Etue said.

Over the years, the Michigan State Police Department has struggled to increase diversity among its officers. According to the Free Press, there were a lot Black officers on the force 20 years ago, as the city was under a federal consent decree that required more hiring of women and minorities.

Statistics from February show that out of a force of 1,779 officers, only 108 — or 6 percent — of them are African-American, the Free Press reports. Etue claims those numbers have begun to change dramatically.

The newest group of potential police recruits is 30 percent Black and 22 percent female, per the Free Press. 

“We’re starting to see the fruits of our labor,” Etue said. “That’s what I’ve been asking for a very long time. I’m feeling like we are on track.”

A court date for Hall and Johnson’s latest suit hasn’t been scheduled yet.

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