Defund Police? Detroit Commissioners Have Other Things To Discuss

Detroit’s Board of Police Commissioners reviewed tactics like neck holds but dismissed calls to stop the use of tear gas or collaboration with the Defense Department.

Detroit’s Board of Police Commissioners addressed calls to “defund the police” during a meeting held on ZOOM video-conference.

“To my colleagues, you want to be on the right side of history on this.” — Commissioner Willie Burton

The slogan has gained in popularity follow protests against police brutality and systemic racism and encompasses an array of proposals to address societal issues by shifting resources away from traditional policing to social services and other city departments. 

But the group of 11 officials focused on other potential changes and revisions surrounding “use of force” policies like “neck holds,” and the required de-escalation of situations by police officers.

Board of Police Commissioners
Board of Police Commissioners

Commissioner Evette Griffie presented 16 guidelines to examine, like ensuring officers who report the misconduct of their colleagues would be protected.

“That is an important part of making sure that we have proper oversight,” said Griffie. “And that we have people who are willing to come forward and call out wrongdoings.”

Police Militarization, Tear Gas

Later during the meeting, Commissioner Willie Burton made several motions to defund aspects of Detroit’s police department.

“I move to prohibit the police department from participating in the 1033 program with the Department of Defense,” Burton motioned, calling the board to end police access to military surplus equipment.

“Nobody knows what you’re talking about,” Chair Lisa Carter responded.

“What actions have you taken to respond to this? We are getting repetitive here. Listen to us, we elected most of you.” — Morgan Fett, attendee

Several commissioners laughed at Burton’s proposals, which also called for eliminating police use of tear gas and flash-bang grenades in addition to police use of facial recognition technology. All motions failed to pass.

“To my colleagues, you want to be on the right side of history on this,” Burton said.

Members of the public, many of whom changed their profile pictures to read “Defund the Police,” asked the board to “de-militarize” the police during subsequent comments, taking issue with the department’s tactics over the week’s protests.

Morgan Fett is calling for the end of police surveillance in Detroit, including Project Green Light.

“This has been happening for months,” Fett told the board. “What actions have you taken to respond to this? We are getting repetitive here. Listen to us, we elected most of you.”

13% of DPD Officers Live In City

During the meeting, Willie Bell, a former Detroit Police Officer, was voted chair-elect of the Board of Police Commissioners in a split vote. Annie Holt was elected vice chair-elect, a role she currently holds.

During a review of statistics from the Detroit Police Department, Deputy Chief Charles Fitzgerald indicated there has been a rise in violent crime, including assault.

“We’ve had 118 [criminal homicides] compared to 94 from last year, which is a 26% increase,” Fitzgerald said. “Our non-fatal shootings, we’ve had 363 year-to-date compared to 254 from last year, which is a 43% increase.”

A spokesperson with DPD indicated that 1,914 police officers reside outside of Detroit. The department has 2,220 sworn officers, according to the city’s website, meaning about 13% live in the city.

“That’s terrible,” Commissioner William Davis responded.

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  • Eli Newman
    Eli Newman is a Reporter/Producer for 101.9 WDET, covering breaking news, politics and community affairs. His favorite Motown track is “It’s The Same Old Song” by the Four Tops.