Chief: Probe finds racially divided Detroit police precinct
DETROIT (AP) — A second white Detroit police officer has been fired for misconduct after his partner posted a racist video online, and an internal audit found that racial insensitivity is a “dirty little secret” in the west side police precinct where both worked, the city’s police chief said Tuesday.
The investigation into the 6th Precinct was launched this year after Gary Steele, then a police officer, posted a video on Snapchat of a black driver whom he had pulled over for having expired plates. He can be heard saying “priceless” and “bye Felicia” as the 23-year-old woman walks away. Video captions read “What black girl magic looks like” and “celebrating Black History Month.”
Steele was fired two weeks ago. Chief James Craig announced Tuesday that Steele’s partner, Michael Garrison, has also been fired for conduct unbecoming an officer, not reporting misconduct, neglect of duty, and being untruthful to investigators.
“While investigating former officer Steele, investigators determined that officer Garrison also repeatedly demonstrated disturbing actions while on the job,” said Craig, adding that the incidents were not isolated to the day the video was recorded.
Craig said about a dozen allegations were leveled against Garrison, including that he used names for African- and Arab-Americans that were “certainly racially insensitive, particularly when they’re focused on one or two demographics.”
Garrison also failed to report the Snapchat video to supervisors and was not truthful when making statements to investigators, Craig said.
Attorneys for the police union haven’t replied to a phone message seeking comment.
Police departments across the country are being scrutinized and criticized for their treatment of African-Americans and other people of color. Protests over the shootings of black men by white officers have upturned dozens of cities in recent years.
The audit “should be used as a template to address racism precinct by precinct and in special policing units,” said Kenneth Reed, spokesman for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality.
“The coalition challenges Chief Craig to continue audits for each precinct,” Reed said.
The misconduct investigations into Garrison and Steele ran parallel to the probe that revealed the 6th Precinct was “racially divided,” Craig said.
“During this audit, some referred to the racial insensitivities that was demonstrated by some that this was the 6th Precinct’s dirty little secret. When comments were made, supervisors were pretty much non-responsive. Some of the comments were made around the station, some in the field,” he said.
One officer told investigators that in January 2015, Garrison saw a white man walking in the cold, called him a “tax-paying citizen” and gave the man a ride to his destination. Later in the shift, the officers saw a black man carrying what appeared to be bags of groceries. The other officer asked if they were going to give the black man a ride. Garrison replied “no, we’re not” and kept driving, Craig said.
“I found her testimony consistent with the behaviors being alleged,” he added.
“This is an opportunity for us to set a model for the department,” Craig said. “There’s going to be some change at the 6th, relative to some supervisors and some managers.”
Activist and Detroit pastor Maurice Hardwick, who joined Craig at Tuesday’s news conference, said the Steele video and revelations about problems in the 6th Precinct are upsetting.
“This is a very sad occasion,” Hardwick said. “But it’s also a light in the dark tunnel that we’re looking to make changes.”