Long-time Detroit Activist Fought Against Police Brutality

Ron Scott, who helped found the Black Panthers in Detroit and spent decades fighting against police abuses, has died.

Long-time Detroit activist Ron Scott has died.

Scott said he had faced life down the barrel of a gun – literally and figuratively.

He helped found the Black Panther Party in Detroit and said he understood the frustrations that in 1967 helped spark days of rioting in the city, what Scott and many others called a rebellion against racist white police officers threatening young black men in particular.

In later years Scott co-chaired the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality and pressed for reforms in the department’s use of lethal force, which eventually resulted in a federal consent decree mandating changes.

The common theme in Scott’s life was a fight against police going beyond bounds.

Pressing for an end to those deadly confrontations brought Scott into conflict with several police administrations.

But Detroit Police Chief James Craig says he respected Scott and the principles he fought for.

Craig said, ”I know that we didn’t always see things eye to eye. But certainly in his last days we had an opportunity to have a lot of positive discussions. I just regret that we didn’t have a chance for me and Ron to sit down and talk about some historical here in Detroit. And that was something that I certainly was looking so forward to. So we’ll just have a moment of silence for Ron Scott.”

But Scott equated being silent with giving up on change.

He pressed for reforms to reduce the number of fatal shootings by Detroit police officers, improve how prisoners were treated and bring an end to the illegal detention of potential witnesses.

That led to Detroit police being put under a federal consent decree in 2003.

When the decree was lifted last year Scott told WDET’s Quinn Klinefelter that many more reforms needed to be enacted.

Scott’s family says he passed away Sunday after what they call a “quiet” battle with cancer, still making telephone calls even on his death bed.

Ron Scott was 68.


  • Quinn Klinefelter
    Quinn Klinefelter is a Senior News Editor at 101.9 WDET. In 1996, he was literally on top of the news when he interviewed then-Senator Bob Dole about his presidential campaign and stepped on his feet.