Former Georgia police officer Milton Myrie has filed a lawsuit against the City of South Fulton Police Department, alleging discrimination. Myrie claimed that despite the existence of the CROWN Act, which prohibits discrimination based on natural hairstyles, he was forced to cut his dreadlocks connected to his religious beliefs.
The 36-year-old officer, who relocated from New York to Georgia in 2021, asserted that he was given an ultimatum to either trim his dreadlocks or forfeit the opportunity to become a police officer. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
He alleged that just before finalizing his contract and starting police academy training, former Deputy Chief Connie Rogers insisted that he cut off his dreadlocks to join the department. He added that despite multiple requests for a religious accommodation, he was informed that none would be granted, according to the Daily Mail.
The lawsuit states that Myrie, a Rastafarian, grew his dreadlocks for 20 years as part of his religious beliefs, considering them a symbol of his connection to biblical wisdom and spiritual energy. The legal document adds that he was however asked to abandon his long-standing practice on the day he was supposed to begin his police training. According to the Associated Press, Rastafari followers believe in the biblical endorsement of marijuana use, considering it a “holy herb” that induces a meditative state and fosters a closer connection to the divine.
The South Fulton Police Department has an automatic disqualification policy for applicants with drug use in the past 24 months, except for marijuana in the last 20 years. Although marijuana is illegal in Georgia, the City of South Fulton has decriminalized small amounts for recreational use.
The former police officer alleged a sex-based double standard, citing instances of female officers being allowed to wear dreadlocks. In February 2023, when Myrie learned about a religious accommodation policy, he resolved that enough was enough and decided to resign after realizing his supervisors failed to inform him about it earlier.
He explained that he adhered to what he believed was the hairstyle policy by repeatedly shaving his head to keep his hair under two inches, resulting in a chronic skin condition preventing the regrowth of his dreadlocks, according to the lawsuit. The legal document stresses Myrie’s deep spiritual connection to his locs and asserts that he would not have cut them had he known he could keep them in line with federal law and the City’s CROWN Act.
South Fulton adopted the CROWN Act in November 2020, making it illegal for employers to discriminate based on hairstyle, including protective and cultural hair textures and styles.
Milton’s lawsuit claims that the police department and the City of South Fulton violated his civil rights by not accommodating his religious hairstyle, engaging in sex-based discrimination, and violating the city’s CROWN Act.
In response, a spokesperson for the City of South Fulton stated that they take all allegations seriously and are committed to ensuring a fair and just workplace for all employees. The spokesperson emphasized the city’s dedication to upholding the principles of the CROWN Act and fostering an inclusive and non-discriminatory environment for all employees.