6:15 p.m. Thursday, May 26 Update: After this story was published at 4 p.m. today, the Detroit Police Department responded to WDET’s request for information Please come back for updates on this story.
6:15p.m. Friday, May 27 Update: In a statement provided to WDET, DPD said in-part “Operation Clean Sweep serves as a sterling example of a department that takes officer misconduct seriously and deals with it transparently.” Also that “…the Department continues to work with the prosecutor’s office on these matters.” More reporting on this story is coming check back for updates.
In November 2021, Detroit Police Chief James White announced the conclusion of a two-year internal investigation that found “numerous incidents of misconduct” within a division of a dozen officers at the department’s Major Violators Unit and the former Narcotics Section.
The alleged misconduct was extensive: overtime fraud and forgery, false affidavits and perjury. One officer falsely reported $16,000 in court appearances in 2019, according to DPD’s Professional Standards Bureau.
But six months after DPD announced its findings, no officers have been charged. A summary of the investigation has not been made public.
Prosecutors: Investigation remains open
DPD announced the end of its narcotics investigation when federal officials were widening their probe into Detroit public corruption. The FBI has charged six people for crimes involving the city’s towing industry. Many of the accused are former DPD officers who live in Livonia, Rochester Hills, St. Clair Shores and Detroit. One former city councilmember was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to felony bribery conspiracy.
White sought to reassure the public that the department was committed to excellence and transparency.
“We have been implementing a number of protocols to ensure that we’re auditing the certain areas that come up in this investigation,” said White at a press conference outlining the potential crimes. “We’re confident that we’ve rooted out the problems and that we can move forward.”
White was joined by Director Chris Graveline of the Professional Standards Bureau, which oversaw the internal investigation. The probe started in 2019 under former police chief James Craig after a Major Violator officer was indicted for bribery.
Former officer Michael Mosley was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison last August. During his guilty plea, the 19-year DPD veteran admitted to taking $15,000 in cash bribes from a drug trafficker he had searched in 2019 for possessing three kilograms of cocaine and heroin, in addition to six firearms. Mosley returned the drug dealer’s signed confession in exchange for the bribes.
Graveline did not mention the incident but said that the police department would make procedural changes after assessing the corruption scheme.
“The practice of releasing or flipping felony drug offenders has ceased at the Major Violators Unit,” said Graveline, outlining other policy failings in supervision and case filing systems. Officers were instructed to start their overtime shifts by recording a body-worn camera introduction. Graveline announced other efforts like digitizing warrant status records and surveillance notes.
Despite DPD’s announcement that Operation Clean Sweep ended six months ago, Wayne County prosecutors say it’s still active.
“The investigation remains open,” said Assistant Prosecutor Maria Miller in an email.
According to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, DPD submitted three warrant requests regarding the narcotics investigation, implicating a total of eight people. Two of the warrant packages were returned to DPD in November and have not been resubmitted by the department. One of the packages was returned to DPD in May, the same day WDET requested information regarding the charges.
The prosecutor’s office did not disclose specific details for the delay.
“Our protocol requires that the warrant is returned to the police department when we are unable to go further with our review because we need further evidence,” said Miller.
Spokespeople for Detroit Police did not respond to WDET’s questions for a statement. The department did not answer a Freedom of Information Act request for a summary report of Operation Clean Sweep, missing state-mandated deadlines for a response by several weeks.
New calls for federal oversight
Members of Detroit’s police oversight board say the lack of publicly available records from Operation Clean Sweep is troubling.
“It is very concerning that no officers have been charged at this point,” said Detroit Police Commissioner Ricardo Moore. “Corruption does not start in a scout car. Corruption typically starts in the chief’s office. I was surprised when the former police chief did not do an initial audit when he first took over 2013. A lot of these issues have lingered.”
“Presently the Police Commission has a backlog of 780 citizen complaints against the DPD for harassment, illegal searches and arrests, and use of force,” the coalition wrote in a 15-page memo to Kristen Clarke, U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.
“It is respectfully requested that 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.”
The letter was endorsed by the Detroit Justice Center, the Detroit and Michigan chapters of the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU of Michigan.
“Given the Detroit Police Department’s history of failing to discipline in many cases when there should be discipline and their delays in discipline when it should have been handled more efficiently, there is concern about this delay,” says ACLU’s Mark Fancher, staff attorney for Michigan’s Racial Justice Project. “It would do well by the City of Detroit to make known more information about why there is a delay in this case.”