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Lawsuit alleges rampant racial discrimination, harassment in MSU police department

February 28, 2023
<p>The Michigan State University Police Department, photographed Oct. 12, 2021. </p>

The Michigan State University Police Department, photographed Oct. 12, 2021.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

Former MSUPD HR Administrator Crystal Perry alleges rampant racial discrimination, harassment and profiling by numerous officers and supervisors during her time in the department in a civil rights lawsuit filed Saturday, Feb. 25.

While the suit details an overall culture of prejudice and specific instances of harassment and discrimination by 11 named members of the MSUPD, much of it is focused on an alleged complete lack of action taken to stop the incidents or punish the aggressors by Perry’s supervisors: MSUPD Chief Marlon Lynch and Chief of Staff Daryl Green. Perry, Lynch and Green are Black.

Only Lynch, Green and Michigan State University are named as defendants in the suit.

According to the suit, Perry has exhausted all other avenues to justice, including numerous Office of Institutional Equity investigations, MSU HR actions, internal complaints at MSUPD and Michigan Department of Civil Rights complaints which all came to no resolution.

She said in the suit that this is her last option to hold MSUPD accountable.

MSUPD spokesperson Dana Whyte said in a statement to The State News that though the department has not received the lawsuit, it will “not comment on pending litigation” but it would “be defending the matter vigorously.”

Inside the suit

Perry started at MSUPD in July 2021. According to the suit, she was one of four total Black employees in the 140-person department.

She said during her first weeks, many white employees, including officers James Terril, Matt Thorne, Luke Silver and Captain Kennedy Parker, “told Perry they were unhappy that MSUPD had hired her.”

Parker allegedly told Perry her employees were upset that her new position included some of their previous responsibilities. The suit said Parker told Perry to “watch her back” and that she believed MSUPD leadership should “get rid of her.”

A department-wide announcement written by Lynch regarding Perry’s hiring touted it as an achievement in diversity, equity and inclusion. The lawsuit said that Parker then told Perry she “does not like the word diversity,” and that “other MSUPD employees did not want to hear the word ‘diversity’ in the office.” Parker added she had received complaints from officers about the word ‘diversity’ being used by Perry.

According to the suit, on her first day, assistant chief Doug Monette showed her to her new office, which was a “small, dirty” broom closet “filled with boxes and spider webs” without enough room to fit an office chair.

She asked if that was the typical arrangement, and according to the suit, Monette said “this is what you get if you want to work at MSUPD.”

The suit said Perry interpreted his statement as the office being “what she personally ‘got’ for wanting to work at MSUPD, rather than what a white or Caucasian person would get.”

Perry’s suit also accused MSUPD of not providing her with any office supplies, leaving her to use her own computer, phone and buy her own paper, notepads, stapler, pens and the office chair which she would struggle to fit into the "closet."

Perry then detailed further discrimination from John Prush, the MSUPD employee tasked with providing and setting up office equipment. The suit alleged he refused to provide her with a computer, saying “he was too busy and it was his goal that Perry did not stay at MSUPD for long.”

After numerous requests for a computer, the suit said Prush “appeared in Perry’s office to reprimand her” and told her she should “save everyone the trouble and just go back where she came from.”

Perry reported this incident to Green, the chief of staff, who, according to the suit, “did nothing” to address the “threats.”

Eventually, renovations opened up a new office in the back area of the MSUPD building. The suit said Perry was allowed to move into that space in November 2021, but by May 2022 she was asked to move to a cubicle in the records room. The new office in the back of the building was allegedly being reassigned to a new hire, who was a white man.

The suit also said Perry was “berated” by MSUPD Captain Dave Oslund, for organizing and encouraging COVID-19 vaccination clinics on campus in 2021, which was “within her job duties and encouraged by MSU.”

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Green accused Perry of “engineering” the complaints against her colleagues and called Perry “argumentative” during her time at MSUPD, the suit said. He allegedly began to “micromanage” her job duties including previewing her emails.

According to university documents attached as exhibits in the lawsuit, in July 2022, Green terminated Perry citing “performance issues.” The assessment contradicted a performance review which was conducted three months before.

Where they are now

Today, Lynch remains the chief of MSUPD and led the department through the response to the mass shooting on the university’s campus on Feb. 13. Green left MSUPD to become University of Alabama Birmingham’s Vice President of Public Safety and Chief of Police three days after he fired Perry. Parker, Terrill, Throne, Silver, Monette, Prush, Oslund all remain with the MSUPD.

After her termination, Perry applied to an open Human Resources Administrator position in the MSU College of Nursing. She was offered and accepted an interview; it was confirmed the next day. But two days later, Perry was informed through an email that her interview had been revoked due to an MSU HR notification that Perry’s application couldn’t be considered for review at the time.

Complaints to the Office of Institutional Equity

During her time with MSUPD, Perry lodged multiple complaints with MSU’s Office of Institutional Equity, or OIE, which is tasked with investigating and finding resolutions to Title IX matters. Many are unfinished or didn’t reach a final resolution. The average MSU OIE investigation takes 361 days to complete.

Perry’s cases were investigated by Erika Giroux of the Miller Canfield law firm. Aside from OIE investigations, Giroux defended MSU in a Title IX lawsuit which settled in January. In the suit, Perry questions whether Giroux could be an impartial investigator given her other responsibility defending MSU from Title IX complaints in court.

Giroux was a litigator without experience in “civil rights investigations, employment discrimination, human resources investigations, equity and inclusion, or any other related topics,” the suit said. 

While the OIE and internal complaints were filed during Perry’s time with MSUPD, Giroux interviewed Lynch about Perry’s case a month after she was terminated and Green left for Alabama. Lynch allegedly falsely stated Green had implemented a “performance evaluation process or improvement plan” for Perry. Perry said she was never informed of such a plan and there was no plan document in her personnel file.

MSUPD employees also informally made and formally filed numerous complaints against Perry, which she believes were racially motivated.

Deputy Chief Andrea Munford filed a complaint which alleged that Perry’s remote work twice a week “made MSUPD look bad,” which Perry argues was motivated by stereotypes which portray Black people as “lazy.” According to the suit, Munford's white subordinates worked remotely. 

The suit also detailed multiple instances where MSUPD employees said they would file “reverse discrimination” complaints and lawsuits against Perry, which they didn’t explain. Perry brought those concerns to her supervisors, Green and Lynch, who allegedly didn't take “any action” against the “harassment and retaliation she suffered at the hands of her white colleagues.”

Parker, the captain who allegedly said her staff was offended by Perry’s hiring, said she had opened an investigation into Perry because of an implicit bias training she led. According to the suit, when Perry complained, Parker then filed an OIE complaint alleging discrimination against her as a white woman.

In November 2022, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission responded to a complaint filed by Perry with a Notice of Right to Sue, leading to the suit filed Saturday.

Before MSU

Perry holds a bachelor's and master's degree from MSU. She worked at MSUPD as an officer, recruiter and union contract negotiator from 1992 to 2000.

Before returning to the MSUPD in 2021, she worked at the Detroit Police Department, the U.S. Department of Defense and Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services, or DHHS.

Perry was also discriminated against while at DHHS. In 2010, a court awarded her attorney's fees and DHHS was fined $21,000, $1,000 for each day that her coworkers placed a toy monkey on her desk.

Administration reporter Vivian Barrett contributed to the contents of this article

Editor's note: This article was updated on March 1 to reflect that DHHS was fined $21,000 in a 2010 case. 


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