The Coalition for Police Transparency and Accountability is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Detroit Police Department.
The coalition – made up of groups like the Michigan Liberation, Detroit Justice Center and others – is concerned about an increase in use of force by DPD since 2020.
Use of force incidents in the city rose with a summer of protests following the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020.
In one instance, Detroit Police broke up a protest and attacked medics and legal observers, sending several to the hospital.
The coalition wants the U.S. Department of Justice to examine why use of force rose dramatically during 2020 and stayed at the same level in 2021.
Nancy A. Parker is the managing attorney for the Detroit Justice Center. Speaking at a press conference Thursday, which was the 97th birthday of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz — the Muslim name of Malcolm X — Parker said the coalition has raised concerns of policing to state officials without response, leaving them with the “sole remaining option” of seeking federal intervention.
“It is respectfully requested that the Department of Justice officials investigate not only the ongoing police killings, escalating violence and racial discrimination perpetrated by and within the Detroit Police Department, but also the institutional culture that inspires and sustains such misconduct.”
In its letter to the Justice Department, the coalition criticized the Board of Police Commissioners for leveling poor oversight and allowing former officers to sit on the board.
ACLU of Michigan Attorney Mark Fancher says Detroit Police engage in practices that are harmful to society.
“A culture of policing has insinuated itself into the very fabric of the department,” Fancher says, “a culture which says that the way to deal with a community that has challenges and problems with crime and violence is to intimidate them, to overwhelm them, to harass them, to bludgeon them and to kill them.”
DPD was under a federal consent decree from 2003 to 2016 following accusations of unconstitutional conduct, including excessive use of force and illegal detentions.
Fancher says some Detroit Police officers are not looking to help residents but force them into submission.
“Because the fact is that to the extent that you get cooperation, to the extent that you get compliant response to that type of policing, you get it not because they respect the police you get it because they’re terrified of the police.”
A DPD spokesperson said the department has no comment at this time.
5/27/22 Ed. Note: Detroit Police later issued the below statement to the media.
Chief White’s administration is committed to transparency and accountability. This community desires safety, constitutional policing, and a community-first approach to law enforcement. This is why the Detroit Police Department is firmly committed to its mission to encourage thoughtful decision-making and a strong sense of community responsibility. To this end, the Department recently hired a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) professional with experience in the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.
Our goal is to disrupt the pipeline to prison through progressive initiatives, such as Crisis Intervention, CeaseFire, Procedural Justice seminars, and other initiatives. Chief White’s efforts in crime reduction were recently recognized at the White House by President Biden and his administration.