'My dream went down the hole': RPD rejects minority candidate's DNA proof

January 17, 2019 09:32 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) - A man from Gates says his dream to be a cop could be over because Rochester Police and the City of Rochester told him they do not believe he is a minority. 

He says the proof he has, they won't accept.


And he says the proof the RPD wants him to get is impossible.

Since 1974, by law, the RPD has to increase its diversity. Peter Abee says he started dreaming of being a police officer as a little kid when he came to this country from an orphanage without speaking a word of English.

This story is about his AncestryDNA test results that the police and the city don't believe.  

"I've wanted to be a police officer since I was six years old," Peter Abee said. "My neighbor actually is a Monroe County Sheriff's [deputy] and because of him, I've always wanted to be a police officer."

Peter Abee grew up in Gates. But he was born 4,830 miles away in Bulgaria, a country on the border of Europe and Asia.

He was left at an orphanage and it was his home until he was adopted by Linda Abee from Gates. 

He arrived at Rochester's airport with his adopted mother in 1993. He was just five years old. 

News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "Do you have any idea who your parents are?"

Peter Abee: "My biological parents? Not at all."

Two years ago, like millions of people have done, Abee submitted a saliva sample to AncestryDNA.

The results of the test say Abee is 44 percent Asian, five percent West Asian and two percent Pacific Islander. 

With the results, Abee applied to be a Rochester Police officer as a minority candidate.

Brean: "So on your Rochester Police application you check the box that says Asian and Pacific Islander?"

Abee: "Correct."

Last February, Abee passed the civil service test with a score of 75. He passed the RPD's agility test. But in November, an hour into his preliminary interview, Abee says an official at RPD came into the room, stopped the interview and said Abee's AncestryDNA results are not proof that he's a minority.  

"And he told me if I want to keep going through the process then I actually have to talk to my parents or grandparents and get some kind of proof," Abee said. "So I asked him how can I do that if I'm adopted? This is the reason why I took my Ancestry DNA. And he's like 'how do I even know you took the DNA test?' And he's like 'how do I even know if you're Asian?'" 

How could Abee talk to his grandparents if he doesn't even know who his parents are?

So News10NBC contacted the RPD and the city about this. We asked to talk to people on camera but what we got were statements. 

Here is the one from the City of Rochester: 

"The City of Rochester is committed to diversity throughout City government, and particularly in the Rochester Police Department (RPD).

In addition to the City's own diversity hiring initiatives, RPD testing and hiring must be conducted in accordance with a 1974 federal Consent Decree, which specifies levels of minority hiring. To treat the applicant as a minority candidate based on unauthenticated evidence would risk taking an RPD position from a verified minority candidate.

To accomplish its diversity goals and comply with the Consent Decree, the City of Rochester carefully screens candidates to ensure that minority applicants are properly appointed. The City does this by verifying race and ethnicity through a combination of factors. The most commonly accepted evidence to verify race and ethnicity is a birth certificate.

In this instance, the applicant's birth certificate from Bulgaria does not state his race and/or ethnicity despite his assertion that he is of Asian descent. In the absence of race and/or ethnicity information on an applicant's birth certificate, the birth certificates of an applicant's parents are requested.

In this instance, the applicant did not produce parental birth certificates that state his parents are Asian. Therefore, consistent with current case law, the City of Rochester was unable to verify the applicant's right to placement on the minority civil service list."

Here is the one from the Rochester Police Department: 

"In regards to Peter Abee, he is a candidate for the position of Police Officer.  He remains on an active Civil Service List.  
Mr. Abee claimed minority status on his application as that of Asian / Pacific Islander.  

Despite Mr. Abee's assertion of his minority status, he was unable to provide any supporting evidence in the form of acceptable legal documentation, short of the results of a mail-in DNA test that he purported belonged to him.

Upon consultation with the City Law Department, a determination was made that based on the findings of Orion Ins. Grp. v Wash. State

Office of Minority & Women's Bus. Enters. (decided  on August 7, 2017) specific to Ancestry by DNA regarding the completeness and authenticity of the results, that Mr. Abee would have to be placed on the majority candidate list. Mr. Abee is encouraged to continue through the current process, and in the event he is not selected to reapply in the future."

The basis for the city's decision on DNA is the 2017 case from Washington state cited in the RPD's statement.

A business owner tried to use a DNA test to get a loan for minority-owned businesses and he was denied. The lawsuit says the DNA tests have a 3.3 percent margin of error and the owner's DNA test said he was four percent African-American. But remember, Abee's DNA result says he's 51 percent Asian, Pacific Islander.  

If Abee had stayed on the minority list and made the RPD, he would have been a rarity. In a 2015 survey of the Rochester Police Department, only two percent of officers were Asian, Pacific Islander. 

"Just quite upset about this because this is my dream," Abee said. "I've always wanted to be a police officer and now my dream just went down the hole."

A closer look at the city's statement shows it says, "The most commonly accepted evidence to verify race and ethnicity is a birth certificate."

But birth certificates in Monroe County do not include race or ethnicity and they haven't since the 1960s. So how can a birth certificate be a form of proof? 

Abee's Bulgarian birth certificate doesn't list race or ethnicity either. 

But then there's the information in the English translation of his Bulgarian adoption record. When News10NBC read it, we found something that Abee didn't even know existed. 

Tonight on News10NBC at 11 p.m., it might just help his dream come true. 


Berkeley Brean

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