‘Caucasian’ Chicago cop sues the city for the right to change his ethnicity in personnel files

CHICAGO — A 20-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city, alleging that his race is listed as Caucasian in his personnel file, but he “currently identifies as Egyptian and African American.”

Mohammad Yusuf, 43, claims that the department only offered Caucasian, Black, and Hispanic as race designations when he joined the force in 2004, so he chose “Caucasian.” But the department now allows incoming officers to choose from “over nine” different racial designations, the lawsuit says.

The police department has a “blanket prohibition” against changing an officer’s race in its records. Yet, it allows officers to “have their gender identity corrected to match their lived experience,” Yusuf’s suit claims.

Even after Yusuf presented the results of a “23 and Me” genetic test to prove his heritage, the department said it was “not possible” to let him select another ethnicity for his personnel file.

“The Racial Identity Policy Ban facially and intentionally discriminates against certain individuals based on personally identifiable characteristics like race,” alleges the suit.

Yusuf’s opportunities for advancement may be hindered because the department continues to consider him “Caucasian,” the suit states.

The court filing points to the police department’s merit-based promotion system that allows high-ranking officers to nominate cops to become sergeants and lieutenants even if they did not score well on CPD’s promotional exams, “particularly benefiting minority candidates.”

After taking the sergeant’s exam in 2019, Yusuf “allegedly scored in the first promotional tier,” yet he has still not been promoted. Since 2019, there have been “over 75 Merit Promotions to sergeant,” and “less than five” of those candidates identify as Caucasian, according to the suit.

“Despite Yusuf’s exemplary qualifications and the purported race-neutral policy of the Merit System, Yusuf has been repeatedly bypassed for promotion in favor of less qualified candidates, based on their race, specifically African American officers, some of whom had disciplinary issues and were not suitable for the responsibilities of a sergeant,” Yusuf’s complaint said.

The lawsuit alleges multiple violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, racial discrimination, First Amendment violations, and a failure to provide equal protection.

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