Before I recount my experiences as a young lawyer suing the City of Flint and its leaders way back in the 1980′s for the same thing, I need to bring you up to date on what is happening in Detroit these days. The ACLU reported in their daily news blast that they are investigating numerous reports of kidnapping and false imprisonment by Detroit Police of indigent homeless people who are being removed from the streets of Greektown and other happening places in Detroit. To watch video of some of the men telling their stories, go to http://www.aclumich.org/issues/homeless/2013-04/1831
It was not so long ago that the Flint Police Department engaged in this same conduct. It resulted in criminal convictions of several police officers and large settlements for civil rights violations.
Back in the mid-1980′s Flint tried to turn its economy around by building a tourist attraction near downtown. The area was well known to be full of prostitutes and johns looking for hookups. AutoWorld as it was known was built not far from this former red light district that was full of street walkers
These undesirable women were the bane of City Fathers who felt they would ruin the image of the city to tourists. So these leaders conspired to violate the civil rights of numerous women by ordering their removal from the streets of Flint. The idea of course was to discourage them from hanging out at the gates of the Six Flags Theme Park.
In the case of my client, she was a student not a streetwalker. She just happened to live a few houses from where she was abducted by the City of Flint Police as she was walking to her home. She was taken away in the nighttime to the suburban countryside of Genesee Township several miles from the near downtown area.
The results were disastrous for the city. This bad behavior by police left a black mark on the City of Flint Police Department’s reputation. It is hard to imagine what a sworn command officer is thinking when they come up with such ideas.
Seriously, in the United States of America the police are the police really going to get away with forcibly relocating Michigan citizens as has happened in Flint and Detroit just as if they were in the former USSR taking people away to work camps in Siberia? What could possibly give rise to such abusive and irrational behavior and policies by police officers?
What the hell is next? I bet the cops up at Bellaire, Michigan would like to take filmmaker Michael Moore away to the deep woods of the UP a little further from the bright lights of Traverse City where he causes so much uproar speaking his mind and attracting the ire of the NRA gun huggers.
Back to Flint, attorneys Robert Segar, the late Judge Kenneth M. Siegle and myself brought a successful lawsuit against the City of Flint and deposed its Mayor, Police Chief and top police command officers about their actions. As you would expect they all pointed the finger at each other and did not accept responsibility for what clearly was a stupid decision made at the top. The officers involved admitted that they were directed to remove what they thought were prostitutes from the AutoWorld area but denied beating them up. A jury disagreed.
A Flint jury found several of these officers guilty of attempted battery in a compromise verdict. They were represented by the very able and flamboyant Pontiac attorney Elbert Hatchet of Pontiac who arrived each day for trial in a big fancy limousine. That spoke volumes about empathy for the poor victims of the police he represented. I like Elbert Hatchet but never understood his insensitivity to the poor of Flint during that trial.
The county prosecutor at the time was Robert E. Weiss. He was a right-wing zealot who was afraid to challenge the police. Rather than charge the officers with a felony of neglect of duty or felony kidnapping he opted to charge a misdemeanor and of course left the jury with little room to debate. I always thought that decision was very wrong and it was one of the many reasons I ran against him and defeated him. Weiss’s charge sent the wrong message to the police. It signaled that abuse of the poor was just a little bit wrong rather than entirely unacceptable.
A person who is sworn to uphold the law and engages in violent criminal conduct and then covers it up should not be treated in a political fashion. That person needs the full force of the law to face them in order to make an example to the public.
Felony charges, especially against police wrongdoers sends a serious and unmistakable message that the system does not tolerate police who become rouge. Police behavior as seen in Flint in this case and now alleged in Detroit essentially hijacks our justice system.
What if those cops went to the large banks in Detroit and pulled that same stunt to the CEO’s of the auto companies who are hanging out at Starbucks or at the fountain at Hart Plaza? What if the cops simply said to the businessmen we don’t want you around here anymore hauling them off to Livingston County or Ionia? Then what happens?
Of course heads would roll and prosecutions of cops for a laundry list of felony offenses would be issued. This is precisely why those in the Detroit Police Department should now be investigated for criminal misconduct and neglect of duty and prosecuted if the evidence supports it as the ACLU seems to suggest in its news blast.
I am not betting that anyone in the City of Detroit under the new Emergency Manager is going to uphold the rights of the poorest among us.
The better question is will the Wayne County Prosecutor stand up for the poor? I wonder if the Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy would put the same amount of energy into this case as she did the sex scandal of the former Mayor. She should and never give it a second thought. I think Prosecutor Worthy is an honorable woman with a deep respect for justice and it would not surprise me to see her take a strong position on this matter. She ought to at least acknowledge her office is looking into these appalling allegations.
In reality, police kidnappings and false imprisonment are far more important laws to uphold and essential to our collective freedom than a disgraced former Mayor lying about having sex with an aide. The Wayne County Prosecutor should be leading this investigation not the ACLU.
Not to engage these allegations is to allow Detroit to slowly slip into a totalitarian state where the government decides where you live, where you sleep and where you eat. That is wrong and un-American and I can think of nothing more important for the Detroit officials to do but to uphold the rule of law. We all have a stake in the good work of the Department of Justice investigators and the Wayne County Prosecutor.