A Black detective who used to work for the Trenton Police Department has reached a settlement on a racial discrimination lawsuit with the city after his civil rights were violated on the job. Members of the force strung up a toy monkey in his area, evoking an age-old racist trope that associates people of African descent with lower primates.
Instead of going to trial to fight a claim of racial discrimination and civil rights violations, officials in the city of Trenton opted to settle with Damon Jefferson, ending a six-year lawsuit between him and the municipality. The two parties agreed on a $1 million award, NJ.com reports.
The lawsuit named Michael Kruchinsky, who was the acting sergeant supervising Jefferson. It also named eight other members of Trenton’s police force, including crime scene detectives he had worked with throughout his career.
In March 2016, Jefferson filed a claim stating a stuffed brown monkey was tied up in a makeshift noose as a tool of mockery or intimidation. The lawsuit was filed in Mercer County Superior Court and alleged he experienced on-the-job retaliation after he reported the racist figure (suspended by a rubberband noose) was left off the side of his cubicle on Mar. 29, 2014.
According to the complaint, the monkey and noose were received as a threat, as historically it is used as “a symbol of racism, hate, and oppression against African Americans in this country.”
Jefferson, said when he filed the claim, his coworkers aimed to “humiliate, intimidate, oppress, discriminate and injure” him on the job.
The officer said he received no support on the matter, even stating his Kruchinsky nor Sgt. Roberto Rios (both supervisors) refused to take action to end his torment and stop his civil rights from being violated.
Robin Lord, the detective’s attorney said, “It’s wrong, disgusting and never should have occurred.”
“If they did this to one of their own, can you imagine what they do to people on the streets they do not know?” said Lord continued.
This was also not the only time Jefferson’s coworkers created a work hostile environment, where he felt intimidated. The legal complaint also claimed someone once posted a picture on a nearby desk of two men lying next to each other with the caption “Retaliation is imminent,” attached to it.
The lawsuit says the TDP violated state whistleblower laws when officers retaliated against him for reporting some of their conduct.
At the time of the filing, Jefferson had worked for the city for 15 years, ultimately becoming assigned to the Crime Scene Unit as a detective. Out of nine investigators, he was the only African-American. Jefferson was placed on stress leave after the incident, but eventually he left the job completely after suing the force.
Lord said, “It’s unfortunate that in today’s day and age, we have to teach Trenton’s police department that hanging a monkey in the cubicle of a Black detective, just should not occur. It’s really sad that people don’t know how dehumanizing such conduct really is.”