Detroit Police Oversight Board Confronts Abuse of Authority Report

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In our local news roundup, tensions over a troubling Inspector General report at the Police Commissioners meeting and a new development moves forward.

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A troubling report from Detroit’s Office of the Inspector General came up during the most recent Board of Police Commissioners meeting and the Land Bank Authority updated an agreement for a development Fitz Forward in this week’s news roundup.

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Detroit Documenters is a program by 101.9 WDET, CitizenDetroit and Chicago’s City Bureau to pay local residents to attend city meetings and take notes on happenings that often go uncovered. These notes are publicly available on documenters.org, where you can also find upcoming public meetings in the city. 

Click on the player above to hear WDET reporter Eleanore Catolico speaking about what happened at public meetings.


Detroit Police Chief, Board of Police Commissioners Clash Over Allegations of Abuse of Authority

What happened: Detroit Police Chief James Craig put pressure on the Board of Police Commissioners (BOPC) to take swift disciplinary action after a scathing report released by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) earlier this month detailed numerous findings of abuse of authority involving the Board during last week’s meeting. Chief Craig said he was “deeply troubled” by the allegations put forth against BOPC Board Secretary Gregory Hicks, Commissioner Willie Bell and other staff members. “I strongly urge the Board, the civilian oversight body of the Detroit Police Department, to take prompt decisive actions in addressing these serious allegations with the same level of accountability as we expect out of our officers,” Craig said.

This is just a report. There is due process for all concerned parties involved. It’s not a guilty verdict. It’s no criminal indictment at all.” - Commissioner Willie Bell 

The statement resulted in defensive responses from Commissioners Willie Bell and James Holley.  

This is just a report. There is due process for all concerned parties involved. It’s not a guilty verdict. It’s no criminal indictment at all,” Commissioner Bell said. “To make a statement like that is inappropriate.”

Holley said that Chief should not be discussing this investigation publicly before the Board had time to discuss the report internally with lawyers.

We are transparent. We will continue to be transparent. I’m not gonna let the Chief tell me what I’m supposed to do as a board member,” Holley responded.

Why it matters: The OIG investigation revealed that in 2016, the BOPC inappropriately conferred hiring power to Board Secretary Gregory Hicks. The investigation found that Hicks changed the minimum qualifications to a job posting for a BOPC staff position, the Executive Manager-Police, in order to benefit Robert Brown.  When Brown was appointed, he also received close to a $25,000 salary increase without changes to the job duties. The delegation of authority to Brown is a violation of the city charter and the hiring of Brown behind closed doors violates both the charter and Michigan’s Open Meetings Act.   

The year-long investigation was launched after the OIG received several complaints against the BOPC involving allegations of abuse of authority, harassment and retaliation.  The OIG also found that false statements were provided to investigators regarding hiring practices. The BOPC decided not to accept the report’s recommendations from the OIG in August and instead disputed the findings. The OIG’s recommendations have been referred to the city’s Corporation Counsel and include meting out “appropriate discipline” to Hicks, Bell and other Board staff.

As an oversight agency of the Detroit Police Department (DPD), the BOPC has the authority to impose disciplinary actions to DPD officers. Therefore, members and staff of the BOPC should be held to equal, if not higher, professional standard which exemplifies honesty and integrity that the BOPC demands from the DPD officers,” Inspector General Ellen Ha said in a statement.  

The Office of the Inspector General was created in 2012 by the city charter to “detect and prevent waste, abuse, fraud and corruption” throughout all aspects of city government, businesses and contractors who work with the city, among others, according to the OIG website. 

What’s next: The next BOPC meeting will be on Thursday, October 24th at 3pm at Public Safety Headquarters.


Meeting notes and live-tweeting are available here.

 

Detroit Land Bank Grants an Extension to Fitz Forward Neighborhood Revitalization Project

What happened:  The Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA) approved a second amendment to their development agreement with Fitz Forward during the Detroit Land Bank’s board meeting last week. According to DLBA’s public information officer Alyssa Strickland, a summary of the details of the second amendment on the project are as follows:

  • DLBA granted an extension to Fitz Forward to complete the project until December of 2024, as long as the developers continue to meet annual goals.  The original project completion deadline for the 65 structures purchased by Fitz Forward  to date was June 2020.
  • Puts DLBA action on hold for existing defaults within the project (If a new default occurs, the old defaults will be triggered and could prompt DLBA action
  • Downsizes the size of the project scope, withdrawing 30 structures and 95 vacant lots from Fitz Forward’s purchase option.  This leaves 60 vacant lots eligible for purchase and is limited to 12 per year as the project continues to meet its goals for rehabbing structures 
  • Perform minimal maintenance on up to 135 vacant lots that may come within their ownership as rehabilitation to parcels continues

  • Transfer “meadows” developed by Fitz Forward back to DLBA inventory after soliciting community feedback in exchange for other vacant lots subject to the agreement 

This change to the agreement will only be adopted if Fitz Forward obtains a $400,000 grant from Invest Detroit, Strickland said. DLBA is not part of this agreement. If Fitz Forward does not retrieve this funding and cannot fulfill the terms of the second amendment, then their defaults will reactivate.

Why this matters: The Fitz Forward Revitalization Project entered into a development agreement with DLBA in  August 2017.  The project w as part of the city’s efforts to revitalize under-invested neighborhoods in partnership with local developers Century Partners and The Platform LLC.  The project’s initial focus was to restore 361 vacant or blighted lots, including rehabbing 102 homes in the Fitzgerald neighborhood on the city’s north end.  It was also one of the largest projects to focus purely on residential development.  Several obstacles have slowed down the progress of the project, including the high costs of renovating many of the homes.  Even though the project pace is behind schedule , David Alade, co-founder of Century Partners, said that the transformation that they’re trying to accomplish takes time.  “This is not a project you can rush because of the trauma that’s developed here over decades,” he told Curbed Detroit earlier this summer.

What’s next: Mayor Mike Duggan will convene a citywide meeting that will include a DLBA resource table to address questions on Monday, November 4th at 5pm at Jamison Temple in Detroit.

Meeting notes and live-tweeting are available here.


Eleanore Catolico, Civic Reporter

Eleanore Catolico is Civic Reporter with 101.9 WDET, covering local affairs with the Detroit Documenters program. She enjoys techno.


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