Detroit Police

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A new umbrella group says Michigan’s leaders need to hear their concerns about fairness in law enforcement.

The Coalition for Justice and Fairness to Reform Law Enforcement has come up with a list of priorities it wants state and local officials to address, members announced in Detroit Tuesday.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit's police chief says his department needs stun guns, especially after an officer was attacked with a razor blade.

  Chief James Craig tells The Detroit News that he's talked to the mayor about purchasing Tasers. He acknowledges they're controversial and is open to a public discussion about their use.

Handcuffs
User the commedian / Flickr

In yesterday's Detroit Free Press, Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor, wrote:

"We need to concentrate on reinstalling basic covenants that value life over property or attitude or even respect. And we need to remind ourselves that when police decide that their job is to compel submission rather than enforce the law, the slide to the role of executioner has too few speed bumps."

Stephen joined me to talk about his column and what recent national events mean for Detroit.

Here's our conversation:

A jury is deciding whether a Detroit police officer is guilty of a misdemeanor for causing the death of a little girl in 2010.

No one disputes that Office Joseph Weekley shot and killed Aiyana Jones when police raided her family’s home looking for a murder suspect.

He is charged with careless, reckless discharge of a firearm, causing death.

The question is whether Weekley failed to exercise “ordinary care” when he fired the shot that killed Jones.

Prosecutors argue he was negligent because he didn’t follow his extensive weapons training.

The re-trial of a Detroit police officer who killed a young girl during a May 2010 raid began Thursday.

No one disputes that Officer Joseph Weekley shot seven-year-old Aiyana Jones to death as police raided her home looking for a murder suspect.

In fact, much of what happened that night was captured on film by camera crews from the A&E reality TV show “The First 48.”

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A federal judge has given approval for the Detroit Police Department to get out from under more than 10 years of federal oversight.

The two federal consent decrees date back to 2003.

They were imposed after allegations that Detroit police subjected citizens to excessive force, false arrests and illegal detentions.

The DPD reports fatal shootings and use of force rates are both way down. And they've totally ended the practice of arresting and detaining witnesses.

The department now begins to transition out of federal oversight with an end date in 2016.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A federal judge has dismissed two federal consent decrees against the Detroit Police Department, freeing it from strict federal oversight.

The department has been monitored for compliance with the decrees since 2003, after a US Justice Department investigation found a “pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing.”

The problems included unlawfully detaining witnesses, “deplorable” holding cell conditions, and chronic use of excessive force.

A Detroit police car
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - A judge is holding a hearing on the federal government's request to terminate an 11-year-old agreement with the Detroit Police Department to reduce excessive force and make other improvements.

The government says the city is in compliance. A hearing is planned forMonday in federal court.

Before the 2003 agreement, the U.S. Justice Department said it found constitutional violations within the department. Between 1995 and 2000, police killed nearly 50 people, including six people who were unarmed and shot in the back. Nineteen people died while in custody.

A court-appointed monitor has been watching the department during the consent agreement.

The government says it still will keep an eye on Detroit police by reviewing internal audits, offering technical assistance and making on-site visits.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

It has been exactly one year since James Craig returned to his hometown as Detroit’s 42nd police chief. He was hired by Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.

“The city was not the city I had left,” Chief Craig said.

Chief Craig came back to a city facing bankruptcy - a city with soaring crime rates, response times of 58 minutes, police precincts that were not open to citizens after 4 p.m., and uniformed officers who were demoralized and spread thin working 12 hour shifts.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s elected leaders are being advised to come up with a policy for how to deal with “non-official” interactions with city police officers, after a stop involving a Detroit city councilman.

Last January, Detroit city councilman George Cushingberry's was stopped by a city police officer.

There was marijuana and an empty alcohol bottle in the car. A passenger in the car was a medical marijuana patient and Cushingberry was not given a sobriety test.

Cushingberry entered a guilty plea in March to driving above the speed limit.

For the past year, for the first time in decades, people in the suburbs, in Lansing, and across America are thinking about Detroit.

Everybody has had to face that Detroit is broken, hopelessly in debt, largely a shattered ruin, and that city services, the schools and so much else doesn’t work.

For many years, everyone knew things were bad, but nobody did much about it.

The political class running the city denied the extent of the problem and did not welcome outside intervention. The rest of us mostly said, fine.

Now, however, things are very different.

Office of the Washtenaw County Prosecutor

Five years ago, 11,000 rape kits were discovered abandoned in a Detroit police warehouse. That discovery sparked outrage. 

Since then, only about 2,000 of the kits have undergone DNA testing.

Why? And what's the broader message sent out to victims of rape? Does it make it seem like they don't matter?

Rebecca Campbell is a professor of community psychology and program evaluation at Michigan State University. She was brought on board by the National Institute of Justice to evaluate how these Detroit rape kits were handled. 

*Listen to the full interview above. 

By now, millions know the story.

Thirteen days ago, on the east side of Detroit, a ten-year-old boy darted in front of a truck driven by a middle-aged tree trimmer named Steven Utash. He couldn’t help hitting the child, whose leg was broken.

When Utash got out to check on the boy, a mob beat him so severely he nearly died. He was in a medically-induced coma for days, and may end up with permanent brain damage.

All that is horrifying enough, but there is one additional terrible detail which is the main reason the story has gotten national attention.

The tree trimmer was white. His assailants were all black. And I can tell you that this is doing more damage to Detroit than a hundred drug murders could have. This may be more devastating to the city than Kwame Kilpatrick ever was. People are used to crooked politicians of all colors, shapes and sizes. Detroit had white mayors who wound up in prison long before Kilpatrick was born.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

DETROIT – Detroit's police chief says a death threat against him on a social media site shows that his department's crackdown on drug trafficking is cutting into the profits of criminals.

James Craig held a news conference Sunday to discuss the threat uncovered Friday. He declines to say where the threat was posted but says it included a photo of a handgun.

The police chief says his department has conducted five large-scale drug sweeps since July as well as an average of 35 drug house raids each week.

Detroit's Police Chief for the day is nine year old Jayvon Felton - a fourth grader who is fighting leukemia, but one day hopes to fight crime as a Detroit Police Officer.

This morning Jayvon made his way to work by helicopter, taking a ride from Coleman A. Young International Airport, over Belle Isle, Comerica Park and the Ambassador Bridge. Upon his arrival, he was greeted by a group of Detroit Police Officers, Felton's classmates from Roberto Clemente Academy, and Detroit Police Chief James Craig.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The former chairman of Detroit’s Police Board of Commissioners was the target of inappropriate surveillance, according to a new report.

The report, from Detroit’s Office of Inspector General, confirms that Jerome Warfield was the subject of police surveillance on “multiple occasions” in early 2013.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Chief James Craig has placed a 10-percent drop in overall crime, 5-minute response time for priority calls to 911 and more solved homicides among this year's goals for Detroit's police force.

Craig released his 2014 Plan of Action on Thursday and is making it available to residents on the city's website.

The department also will hire 150 new officers by mid-year and deploy detectives in each of the city's 12 police precincts.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s crime rate fell slightly in 2013, according to data released by the city’s police department Thursday.

Detroit recorded 333 criminal homicides last year, down from 386 in 2012.

Non-fatal shootings also declined, though there were still well over 1,100 of them.

Overall, violent crime declined by 7%, and property crime was down by the same amount.

taliesin / Morgue File

A federal judge recently called the New York City police force’s ‘stop and frisk’ practice unconstitutional and discriminatory.

Detroit’s ‘stop and frisk’ policy is based on the same advice of consultants at the Manhattan Institute who advised New York.

Despite the judge’s findings, Detroit Police Chief James Craig says the ‘stop and frisk’ in will continue and that the police in Detroit adhere to the best policing practices as called for under a consent agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has called on the Detroit Police to end the practice. In a three page letter the ACLU called ‘stop and frisk’ a prescription for an avoidable local disaster.

Mark Fancher of the ACLU joined us today. Click on the link above to listen to our conversation with him.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A coalition of civil rights groups is concerned about the Detroit Police adopting some controversial tactics.

The department is training officers to perform “stop and frisk” procedures during routine traffic stops.

Police officials call it “proactive policing.” But civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union worry it could cross a constitutional line.

A federal judge recently found a New York City version of that program used racial profiling, and ruled it unconstitutional.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit has a substantial number of brand-new police and EMS vehicles—and they come as a donation from the city’s business community.

Some of Detroit’s most prominent business people ponied up $8 million worth of new vehicles to the city through the Downtown Detroit Partnership.

One of the biggest donors—automotive retailer and racing magnate Roger Penske.

The Detroit Police Department is looking to boost its ranks.

The department is holding a recruiting fair for the first time in almost decade at its downtown public safety headquarters Saturday.

Police Chief James Craig says when he started the job last month, he found out there was funding to add 60 officers. But there weren’t enough recruits.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Detroit Police Department prepares for big changes

Detroit Police Chief James Craig intends to introduce a large departmental reorganization, reports Michigan Radio’s Sara Cwiek.  Craig announced last week that he will restore a version of the department’s gang squad.  Many administrative jobs will be filled by civilians so that more officers can return to field work.

CDC says obesity down among Michigan children

According to a new Center for Disease Control study fewer Michigan children qualify as obese.  Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody reports that the obesity rate among low-income preschool children dropped from 13.9% in 2008 to 13.2% in 2011.  Michigan ranks fifth in the nation for obesity rates.

Michigan Supreme Court returns custody to foster family

The Michigan Supreme Court has ordered that four children be returned to their foster family, reports Michigan Radio’s Rick Pluta.  Custody was awarded to their grandmother last year by the Michigan Court of Appeals because state law gives automatic preference to relatives when parental rights are terminated.  The Supreme Court said that the children should be returned to the foster family until it makes a decision whether to hear the appeal.

 Detroit Police Chief James Craig says he’s in the midst of a sweeping departmental reorganization.

He’s also thinking about reviving a version of the department’s gang squad. That unit disbanded in March amidst great controversy.

Craig says “it won’t be like the old days,” though. He plans to bring back a highly-specialized Tactical Services Section, which could include a gang intelligence arm.

A Detroit police car
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Jefferson Corridor in Detroit is home to the Clean and Safe program.

The program was created in part by the organization formerly known as the Jefferson East Business Association (JEBA). JEBA recently merged with the East Jefferson Corridor Collaboration to form the Jefferson East Inc.

The program is aimed at reducing crime in the Jefferson Corridor by taking advantage of a special program that allows off-duty Detroit police officers to be hired during their off-hours. The officers are armed, uniformed, and use DPD squad cars, at no extra cost to taxpayers. Cops who have seniority and a clean record are eligible. 

Two police officers now find themselves on the other side of the law, accused of armed robbery.

A 20-year Detroit police sergeant and a colleague from suburban Saint Clair Shores allegedly used their badges to rob and assault two customers at an east side Detroit gas station earlier this month.

The men pulled in a black pick-up truck equipped with sirens. Guns drawn and badges visible, they detained, searched and allegedly stole items, including cash, from the victims.

steve carmody

Detroit and national news media are in an uproar after learning a news photographer was arrested for filming police last week.

Detroit Free Press photographer Mandi Wright was filming police making an arrest on her iPhone last Thursday.

Here's the video:

steve carmody

Police Chief James Craig says Detroit's emergency dispatch system still isn't fully operational after crashing last week.

Fire, police and emergency medical services were not able to use the system for about two hours on July 5.

Some officers used cell phones to contact dispatchers. Calls for service were routed through state police dispatchers. Residents in non-emergencies were told to go to a police station and file a complaint.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

“We will get this done,” James Craig, Detroit’s new police chief, told officers at the 10th precinct during roll call Monday.

Craig, during his first day on the job, promised officers that he would start “treating police like adults.” And he vowed to make Detroit “one of the safest major cities in America.”

“You can’t have a safe city if you don’t take care of the cops,” Craig said.  “And I’m going to take care of the cops.”

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Common Core debate continues in committee

State lawmakers have formed a special committee to debate the merits of the Common Core Standards Initiative. The state Legislature blocked the state from implementing the school standards last month. Lawmakers said they needed more time to review Common Core before letting it take full effect in Michigan.

Detroit's new police chief begins first day on the job

Detroit’s new police chief, James Craig, will report to work for the first time today. Craig, a native Detroiter, returns to the city from Cincinnati where he was named police chief in 2011. Craig said some of his top goals include raising department morale and putting more civilians in positions that had been held by officers.

Teen unemployment rate more than double the state’s overall rate

State labor officials say a quarter of Michigan teens who want a job can’t find one this summer. State and local officials say limits on federal grants intended to promote youth employment are partly to blame. 

“Michael Finney, president of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, says he would like to do more to improve the teen job picture in cities like Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, and Saginaw as a way to reduce crime,” Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody reports.

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