Former officer sues Birmingham PD for racism
By Lisa Brody
A lawsuit was filed in federal court on Monday, January 15, against the Birmingham Police Department by a former officer, Yacoub Iseid, alleging he was discriminated by the department due to his ethnicity, was repeatedly denied promotions due to his Palestinian background, and had racist names hurled at him by his supervisor, among other defamatory issues, contending his civil rights were violated.
Mary Kucharek, attorney for the city of Birmingham, said the city and department had not yet been served. She noted they do not comment on pending litigation.
According to Iseid's lawsuit, he said he began working for the Birmingham Police Department in January 2014, and in 2017 applied for a position with Oakland County's Narcotic Enforcement Task Force, led by Sergeant Mike Lyon. Iseid, who is of Palestinian descent, alleges in the lawsuit that he was passed over “for a less qualified white officer named Seth Barone.” He then sought to improve himself, and was told he was passed over because he was a “fat rock.”
Lyon left the task force and became Iseid's supervisor, where he said Lyon “continually referred to Plaintiff as a 'terrorist,' 'a bomber,' making jokes about his ethnic background, and using the 'n word' in regular conversation.” Iseid alleges the department had a culture of racial animus, including but not limited to Arab individuals.
Iseid again applied in 2019 to the Narcotics Enforcement Task Force, and was one of three to apply from the department. He claims he was an “Arab American with six years’ experience on the force and a drug recognition expert;” a Black officer with two years' experience; and a White officer who had been on the force for a year, who was appointed to the task force. According to a source, the White officer, Alex Linke, had served in the Marine Corps prior to joining the Birmingham Police Department and had outside experience.
In his complaint, Iseid said he became depressed and took a weekend off, attending a baptism and birthday party, which he posted to social media. Another officer saw the postings and reported them to his supervisor, who required a meeting and Iseid was placed on administrative leave. During that time, he reached out to his chief of police, former Chief Mark Clemence, currently assistant city manager, along with human resources and his union rep. He was told to begin therapy, which he did.
Iseid claims miscommunication between his therapist and the department prevented his reinstatement; he was terminated in January 2021.
In his lawsuit, he claims race and/or national origin were the motivating factors impeding his growth and promotion opportunities; treatment; subjecting him to unnecessary evaluations; impeding his return to the force; and dismissal.
Iseid's attorneys, Eric Stempien and Lauren Gwinn of Stempien Law LLC in Livonia, claim violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; of creating harassment-hostile work environment; and a violation of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, citing race and national original discrimination. Stempien said they first filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Office (EEOC) in 2019, where it “just sat there. This has been pending for a long time.”
Stempien said Iseid was not the only minority member on the force, but he was clearly targeted. “He was upset because he was racially targeted and pushed by his superiors and he felt berated by them, and when he reacted strongly, they used it to say he wasn't psychologically fit to be an officer,” Stempien said.
They are requesting a trial by jury.