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Heard on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

Detroit and Chicago: Police, Community, and the DOJ

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Image credit: Michael Hayball

What can Chicago learn from Detroit’s experience with the Department of Justice?

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Just over a year ago, a 17-year-old young man in Chicago - Laquan McDonald - was shot and killed by a police officer. Video of that shooting was held by the department until a reporter sued and won access to the tape just a couple of weeks ago. Since then the police officer has been charged with murder, a police chief was fired, and officials at all levels in the city are struggling to explain their role in the bungled investigation.

Laquan McDonald’s death has created enough of a stir that the U.S. Department of Justice has decided to look deeply at the Chicago Police Department. That’s a relationship with the federal government Detroit knows well. In 2003 an agreement was reached to add a federal monitor to oversee the Detroit Police Department. The monitoring ended last year. Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson speaks with Mark Fancher of the Racial Justice Project at the ACLU of Michigan about the intersection of community, police, and the federal government.

How has Detroit’s police department changed? Have things gotten better here over the past decade? Here are a few highlights from the conversation:

  • Violence: Fancher states that since the federal government observed the Detroit Police Department, he says that statistically, “The number of instances of violence, the number of instances of police killings has gone down.”
  • Revolving Door: Stephen Henderson says that part of the problem is in the “rotating nature of bad officers,” referring to how a disgraced officer can re-apply at another station for work after being fired.
  • Professionalism: Part of the problems with police brutality come from the professionalism of the individual officer. “If a police officer is not interacting with a citizen in a professional way, it’s more likely to provoke a reaction from a citizen, that’s going to provide a pretext to overreact and get violent,” Fancher says.


To hear more of their conversation, click the link above.


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