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Retired Michigan State Police trooper says his demotion had to do with his race

DETROIT – On a hot day in June 2013, two Michigan State Police dogs died while in the care of their trooper handler. The dogs died after they were left in a car for 11 hours with the windows up and the vehicle off.

Section 750.50 of the Michigan Penal Code states that failing to provide adequate care for an animal that results in its death is a crime, punishable by jail time and fines. But, according to a retired State Police source, the trooper was never charged.

"It was kept hush-hush and he was allowed to stay in the unit," the source said. "He was written a reprimand and was immediately issued two more dogs."

The Defenders are not naming the handler or the source, who is suing the department. The source was also in the K9 unit, but was accused of leaving a work shift early and misfiling his time cards. He was demoted and his dogs were taken away.

He claims one sergeant told him he could leave Ford Field early as a game he was patrolling was ending, but another supervisor said he was never given permission. The source has several awards and glowing reviews describing him as a dedicated officer.

"He wasn't removed from the unit and I was," the source said. "I just don't see how the two can even be comparable."

The source said he can't imagine what the other trooper went through when the dogs died.

"We develop a great relationship with our dogs and they become a part of our life. In fact, family. And to have an accident or to do something like that to your partner that you go to work with every day, not just one but two, it has to be devastating. I can feel his pain," the source said.

But in his lawsuit, the source claims the other trooper was given a second chance because he is white. The source is African-American.

"For them to get together with the command and concoct some crazy investigation to get you removed from the unit, it's clearly because I'm black," the source said.

Attorney Leonard Mungo is representing the source.

Mungo recently won a $5 million racial discrimination lawsuit against MSP and said the department is disturbingly low in the number of women and minorities it employs.

Mungo said the demoted trooper was the only African-American in the K9 unit.

"It speaks to a discriminatory mindset. It speaks to a discriminatory custom and culture in the Michigan State Police," Mungo said.

He said others have come forward to back up the allegations of racist remarks.

"We have the representations from a white trooper that my client was called ‘Buckwheat,' and my client was called ‘Sambo' and other racially derogatory terms," Mungo said.

MSP won't comment on litigation and denies the allegations in court records.

The source said it's wrong that MSP kicked him out but kept a white trooper who accidentally killed his dogs.

"If you're ever being discriminated against, stand up, take a stand," the source said.

Full statement from Michigan State Police

The Michigan State Police (MSP) confirms that two of its department canines died tragically on June 15, 2013, from heat exhaustion after being accidentally left in a patrol vehicle by their handler. A complete investigation was conducted and the results were submitted to the Ingham County Prosecutor's Office for review. After reviewing the circumstances, the prosecutor's office cleared the trooper of any criminal wrongdoing in the deaths.  An internal investigation sustained a violation of department policy and discipline was imposed. Following this incident, the MSP installed sensors inside its canine patrol vehicles to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again. The sensors automatically roll the windows down, sound the horn and activate the vehicle's flashing lights to alert the handler if temperatures rise to an unsafe level.