Clarification: This headline has been updated to say the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners is working on the backlog.
The Detroit Board of Police Commissioners’ chief investigator has more than 800 backlogged citizen complaints that have gone unanswered for 90 days or more. The chair of the board’s citizen complaint committee demanded answers from the chief investigator at a recent meeting.
Bridge Detroit’s Bryce Huffman says many of these complaints were over procedures and officers’ demeanor toward city residents.
“That’s a big deal because citizen complaints against police officers are one of the few recourses citizens have to complaining about officers if they feel that their rights are being violated or that they were mistreated by an officer.”
Huffman says the backlog could hurt the ability to hold police officers accountable.
The Office of the Chief Investigator (OCI) says COVID-19 shutdowns slowed down the department, along with staffing issues.
Police Commissioner Ricardo Moore, who represents the seventh district and heads the citizen complaint committee, blamed leadership, saying people were not properly being transparent about what was going on at OCI.
Huffman says 80% of the complaints are by Black Detroiters.
“It’s fairly representative of the city’s population. But it also goes into who is coming into contact most with police officers, and if they’re the ones filing these complaints, you have to imagine there’s a lot of people who recognize a lot of the same issues with police officers …”
Huffman reported that since the last Board of Police Commissioners meeting, the number has reduced to 779.
Huffman says the OCI reported working on measures to further reduce the backlog by better ironing out the processes and procedures, and training investigators.
“They’re trying to make the process more efficient. And a lot of this does come down to how many investigators they have and the way that they’re teaching their investigators to look at cases and what they actually need to be doing.”
Huffman used Detroit Documenters notes as part of his reporting. Documenters is a program that trains and pays people to take notes at public meetings.
Listen: Bridge Detroit’s Bryce Huffman talks piled-up police complaints.