Metro Detroit has always been one of the more notorious areas in America for police misconduct and brutality. In my parent’s generation, there was systematic brutality and racial profiling, from the Detroit Police Department’s notorious Stop the Robberies, Enjoy Safe Streets (S.T.R.E.S.S.) unit and routine harassment of black men driving west of Wyoming St. by the Deaborn Police during the era of Mayor Orville Hubbard.
Since then, we’ve had numerous events ranging in severity and media scrutiny, from the fatal beating of Malice Green in 1992 by Detroit Police officer Larry Nevers, to Grosse Pointe Park Police suspending five officers last year after it was revealed that a black man with diminished mental capacity was made to make ape sounds while in police custody.
Last week, dashcam video was made public regarding an incident in which a Dearborn Police officer is seen kicking an unarmed Lebanese immigrant who was being restrained on the ground. The man who was kicked multiple times barely speaks English and has diminished mental capacity, similar to the gentleman who was humiliated last year in Grosse Pointe Park.
These incidents, spread across decades, makes one wonder if there’s a greater law enforcement culture issue at hand.
Sure, there are many honorable officers serving in our region and being in law enforcement is never an easy task. However, the reflex in which police chiefs have to defend their officers, seemingly at all costs, helps perpetuate actions such as what took place in Dearborn.
But thank God for technology.
We can lawfully take smartphone video of officers in action, and many police vehicles are outfitted with dashcams, which pick up audio and video of police interactions.
All officers, as public servants, should be mic’d at all times while on duty. Officers’ interactions should be public record, except for detectives investigating sensitive cases and/or taking official statements of witnesses to crimes. Every sheriff and police officer’s car in Michigan should be compelled to have dashcams.
For many people, behaviors do not change without consequences. Greater opportunities to scrutinize the behaviors of law enforcement officers may serve as a deterrent against police misconduct.