Mich. police accused of targeting Black athletes in high school hazing scandal

·3 min read

A recent lawsuit alleges that police went out of their way to protect an elite white varsity player

The police department in Warren, Michigan is being sued by a former high school football player over its handling of a 2019 hazing scandal.

Cleveland Harville, 20, who attended Warren De La Salle High School, is one of seven Black male students charged with misdemeanors in 2020 over a hazing controversy that also involved white players. The former students of the all-boys Catholic high school were accused of holding down younger athletes on the locker room floor and prodding their bare buttocks and legs with broomsticks, according to the Detroit Free Press.

De La Salle Collegiate / YouTube screenshot
De La Salle Collegiate / YouTube screenshot

The lawsuit alleges that police only targeted the Black athletes with criminal charges and went out of their way to protect an elite white varsity player who was “the main one” involved with the hazing ritual.

Several of the Black athletes lost their football scholarships as a result of the charges, which were ultimately dropped. However, according to the lawsuit, police protected the white athlete so he wouldn’t lose his athletic scholarship at a Big Ten university. He was never investigated or charged and went on to play football at Ohio State University.

“The more I research this, the more I’m appalled at the blatant and overt abuse of power to hurt Black children,” attorney Todd Perkins told the Free Press on Tuesday. “And it is specifically pointed at Black children because they are the only ones charged. It continues to hurt. It continues to pain. And it continues to anger me.”

Charges against the seven Black players were dropped in 2020 after they agreed to participate in an anti-bullying program. All but Harville had to write letters of apology to the victims. Per the report, the school reached a confidential settlement with three of the players.

Harville’s lawsuit notes that he wasn’t on the football team or a student at the school when the hazing occurred during a team dinner on Sept. 5, 2019. A younger player alleges Harville put him in a headlock while others “broomsticked” him, according to the report.

The hazing allegations saw the abrupt end of De La Salle football team’s 2019 season on the eve of the playoffs.

“It has affected my life in a major way,” Harville told the Free Press.

“I had a plan,” Harville said,” I wanted to be able to pick one of the schools that were interested in me, and go to school for finance and hopefully go on with my life from there.”

The lawsuit accuses the Warren police of engaging in “malicious prosecution.”

“An independent, third-party investigation found no player at-fault and suggested the actions taken against the Black and brown players had racial implications and undertones,” the lawsuit states. “(The police) only investigated and charged Black and brown players, not similarly situated white players … Had (Cleveland) been white, he would not have been investigated, charged with a crime, arrested, or detained.”

Warren Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer denies the racism accusations.

“I adamantly deny that we were racist in this investigation. Everyone was treated fairly,” Dwyer said. “We conducted a very thorough investigation. We looked at anyone we had information on. We presented our findings to the St. Clair (County) prosecutor. And that was it.”

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