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Mayor Young Vs The Dpoa Who Will Rule Detroit's Police?

Mayor Young Vs The Dpoa Who Will Rule Detroit's Police? image Mayor Young Vs The Dpoa Who Will Rule Detroit's Police? image
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Although a compromise agreement has been reached belween the City of Detroii and the Detroit Pólice Officer's Association to avert layoffs of 550 officers. the memory of that May l) scène in front of the Federal Building where hundreds of armed policemen engaged in rowdy disorder is still vivid in this comnumity. And l'rom all indications. il will linger for a long time to come. The one good thing during the melee is that no shots were fired from the untold niimbcr of drawn guns as about 20 white cops attacked William Green, a 23year-old black off duty officer. Green was taken to Detroit General Hospital and treated for cuts about the chest and head and a fractured nose. He was released later that night. At least tour televisión and newspaper photographers were attacked by pólice, and cameras broken, in an apparent attempt to prevent their pictures from being taken. The effort was futile, however, because other photographers were taking pictures of those scènes, and the entire fracas was shown on the three major televisión networks and in newspapers throughout the country. An estimated crowd of 1 .000 pólice officers denionstrated around the Federal Building where a hearing was being held before US District Judge Ralph Freeman on the status of 275 black and female pólice officers who are paid with federal funds through the Law Enforcement Assistarïce Act (LEAA). Officers from other areas of the state and from as far away as Chicago were reportedly among the pickets. At one point. City Councilman Jack Kelley and David Eberhard joined them, carrying posters reading, "Real Affirmative Action - Fire the Mayor," and "City Violates Contract." Nearly 200 officers stood crammed together in the back of the courtroom and listened intently until Judge Freeman cited the affirmative action relief the court had given female officers as a result of a suit they had filed two years ago. He said the officers paid with federal funds had no bearing on the city's financial situation one way or another, and ruled that the city could not lay them off. Therefore, white officers with seniority would be laid off instead. The protesting officers did not wait to hear the rest of Freeman's order, but created disruption as they stormed out, shouting insults at the judge. AN UGLY FRACAS It was shortly after they left the courtroom (about 2:30) that the fighting erupted outside. Green was standing on the steps of the Federal Building on the Lafayette Street side, a short distance from DPOA President Ron Sexton, who was in the process of giving a report to the officers when a beer can was thrown and it struck Green. Recognizing the can-thrower as an officer from the 1 2th Precinct where he was also assigned. Green went down to talk to the officer, but was greeted with derrogatory epitaphs. Seeing that the effort was futile. Green turned to walk away from him and suddenly he was attacked. Someone shouted, "He"s got a gun," and Green was knocked to the ground as they scuffled for Green's gun that had tallen to the street. A white officer in the Stationary Traffic Section, and a white pólice inspector, stood by and watched but did not try to stop the attack. Asked by a reporter why he didn't try to break it up, the inspector replied, "There were too many of them and I did not want to bring policemen on other policemen." Green was rescued by Inspector Reginald Turner, who is black, and a white officer. Prior to the attack on Green, several of the demonstrators. who were seen making trips to nearby bars and returning with beer cans, began blocking traffic and shouting at people driving in the area. Some motorists were forced to stop their cars. The reason given for the picketing, which was called by the DPOA, was that it was rpcaceful demonstration against threatened layoffs of pólice officers. Mayor Coleman Young had much earlier announoed that unless the officers agreed to waive their contracted pay raises for the fiscal year beginning July 1 , the city, because of the heavy deficit it is facing, would be forced to go ahead with layoff plans. (The original number of pólice layoffs cited was 825, but Freeman's order has eliminated the 275 officers who are not paid by the city.) Young also asked the officers to take some days off without pay to help out. Ironically, on May 9 when the fracas took place, Mayor Young was meeting with congressional leaders in Washington, D.C., to solicit their support toward his campaign to get federal money for this ailing city. Upon hearing what had happened, he said: "When you have a pólice picket line and they're wearing sidearms (whicli is a requirement for Detroit pólice officers at all times), at whicli time does it cease to become a protest and become intimidation? That's dangerous. At the very least it showed disrespect. These guys who are supposed to be professional pólice officers became an unruly mob. These men are on duty 24 hours a day, and if they're acting as a mob. who's going to control the city?" LAYOFF WHITE MALES ONLY The layotls to OCCUI May 1 . bui judge Freeman ssued a oine day cestraining order, requested by teníale officers, that prevented the city trom laying them uiï. He said the nine days would give the city .nul the women plaintitïs time to come up with an alternative plan. Subsequent to that aclion, two black pólice officers' orgarn'zations, the Concerned Pólice Offlcers foi l-qual Justice and the Guardians of Michigan, also filed a Federal suit to stop the layoffs of black otïicers. That case wem to Ï'.S. District Judge Danion J. Keith. who issued a temporary injunction against the layoff of blacks. This meant that layoffs would have to be confined to white male olïicers. Soon alter, the Federal Building nielee erupted. It was this deadlocked situaiion thal prompted Judge Keith to cali all parties together to.his ehambeis. He acled as mediator during the bargaining sessions that ensued. The Lieutenants and Sergeants Association that was not conti onted with any layoffs, hut would suffer inassive demotions in their ranks, agreed to the first proposal that carne out o!' the Keith meeting. Hut the DPOA lejected it. Keith called the parties together again, and after a two-day session. June 4, Sev ton and DPOA executive board membeis wljo were present assured Keith that they would urge the membersliip to accept the new proposal. The agreement was ratified by a slim margin of 50 votes I .s vi to 1,783. Under the no-layoff agreement, otïicers will take 14 straight-time days off without pay and 10 days off with pay, over the .next 18 months. Those who work a holiday within the next 1 3 months are to receive 1 2 hours of compensatory time off instead of overtime pay. The LSA pact was amended to match the DPOA's. Black officers, who had announced their willingness to go along with the mayor's no-raise offer at the outset. charged that the DPOA was not interested in representing black officers. They cited the makeup of the 4000-member organization's structure as evidence of biased intent. They said there are no blacks on the DPOA's 9-member executive board, and there is only 1 black steward among the 72 who make up the union's board of directors. Citizens in the black community, and many whites, are well aware of the long history of racism on the part of some white pólice officers and the poor policecommunity relations that has permeated throughout the city. Therefore, a large segment does not believe that the May 9 disorder was brought on solely because of Mayor Young's ultimatum. There have been many cases to substantiate this opinión. But even though they know that such racism exists, those who watched the happenings on their televisión screens said they were appalled by what they saw. And several commented that it was fortúnate that there was not a very big turnout of community people at the Federal Building May 9, because a far worse confrontation may have erupted. YOUNG vs. DPOA The conflict between Mayor Young and the DPOA showed evidence of surfacing almost as soon as Young took office. When the Mayor announced that affirmative action would be a top priority item in hls continued on page 20 The memory of that May 9 scène in front of the Federal Building, when white policemen attacked black patrolman William Green, is one that will linger in Detroit for a long time to come. Pólice continued from page 3 program, as well as his vow to have a 50 percenl black pólice forcé by 1977, he cerlainly rubbed some people the wrong . way. Moreover. his stand on the question of residcncy was not well received by pólice officers and other city employees who pret'er to reside in the suburbs while they earn their living in Detroit. the residency issue is now in arbitration, and Young, who hasn't backed off one inch. maintains that ila person doesn't want to live in this city they shouldn't expect to work here. Another thing that immediately alerted foes of lus program that he really meant to follow Üirough on all of the promises he made. was his quick action in abolishing the notorioui pólice STRESS unit (Stop The Robberies - Enjoy Safe Streets). His goal to obtain a 50-50 pólice forcé was affected last year by the lawsuit filed by women, charging the pólice department with discrimination against females in its hiring and promotional practices. The court ordered a halt to all hiring of pólice until the department could hire one woman for every man hired. This set the hiring program back some seven months, as the department set out to recruit more qualified women. who were difficult to lócate. Then by the time it looked like the way was open to begin hiring again. the huge deficit loomed ominously. In spite ot iIk' interruptions, however, thcre have been more blacks on the pólice torce during Mayor Young's firsl 18 months in office than in the í uil 4 years any other mayor has ser ved. Out of 5,191 officers, 1,01 8. or 18.79 percent are black. Th ree of the 5 Deputy Chiefs are black; live of the 1 7 ('omnianders are black. Tliere are only 6 black Inspectorsout of 56; 13 black Lieutenants out of 225, and 92 black Sargeants out of 1 ,1 78. At the present time, recruiting has been halted, beeause of lack of funds. Thomas Farabee, who heads the departmenfs recruiting section, says there are 1 ,150 male and female recruits ready to be hired, yet they can't do anything about it unless federal funds can be obtained which Young has been and is trying to get from Washington. About 85 percent of the recruitment rtaff of d0 officers and civilians are being cut back. Farabee said. However, the officers will be transferred to patrol duty. Despite the opposition to his affïrmative action program, those close to him say Mayor Young is determined to continue in that direction. Pólice Chief Philip Tannian has been cooperating in that effort, they said. But they also said that Young fully understands the nature of racism and that perseverance is a must in doing the right thing. Sgt. Fred Williams, who is quite an expert on the history of the Detroit Pólice Department, has cited on numerous occasions, in speeches and articles, the experiences he and other older black pólice officers have had, and they are not pleasant to hear. CORRUPTION GOESWAY BACK Several Detroiters are acquainted with the many incidents of pólice brutality in daysgone by. They remember the old Hunt Street (Pólice) Station that was notorious for cracking black heads. Moreover, they remember the old "round-theloop" practice of holding a person 72 hours under investigation, and the person could be transferred from one station to another and another, spending 72 hours in each. That's how the name "roundthe-loop" was acquired. Detroit's first real pólice forcé, called the Metropolitan Pólice of the City of Detroit, was formed in 1865, May 15. Everybody should" know what was pening to blacks during that period. Police had a major responsibility to keep ' blacks in line, and that they did, except for some who were just plain stubborn. That same attitude, only more streamlined. continúes today among some white officers. All are not followers of those racist practices, however, but enough are to make it pretty difficult to set the record straight. Coleman Young is the first mayor of Detroit who has squared off in a sudden death match with the Detroit pólice unions. A couple of other mayors have made an attempt but backed off when the heat was put to them. But Young is tougher than they expected him to be, and is viewed as a real threat to the old power. He got his training from the school of hard knocks from Black Bottom and on up to these days. Many citizenshave the same knowledge about pólice unión power that Young has, but most have always feit that they couldn't do anything about it anyway, so some of them just rolled with the punches. During a discussion last week, several old-timers cited incidents that occurred three, four and five decades ago, and how the top brass on the pólice department controlled everything, including the city. It was common practice in earlier days, and it still is among some of us who respect the wisdom of the elders, to be present at such sessions and listen. They talked about Ben Turpin, the black cop who walked the beat in Black Bottom to which he was confined. After all, white folks ran the pólice department. But Turpin made good use of his limited area, they said. He kept the young black dudes in line, and the things some of our young people are doing today wasn't even heard of much less allowed then. The conversation got around to the corruption scandal in Detroit in the early 40s when the suicide of a young white woman developed into an investigation when the complaints she had raised about pólice corruption had been 'white-washed.' That case caused the creation of the Homer Ferguson grand jury, they said, and the jury probe resulted in indictments and convictions of the mayor, a sheriff and a prosecuting attorney, all of whom went to prison. They related how pólice unions had controlled and dictated what the policy would be for everybody, and how crime flourishes so well when there are corrupt cops. This is an opinión that is shared by many people in the community. Whether the pólice are corrupt or are turning their heads because of racism, it amounts to the same results. FIGHTING PÓLICE DRUG TRAFFIC In 1972, George Bennett, the present Deputy Chief in charge of the pólice department's Internal Affairs División, was ■ removed from the post of commanding officer of the 1 2th Precinct after he demanded strict adherence to the rules in the Pólice Manual. He was ousted because he insisted on the predominately white pólice forcé in the 1 2th following the pólice rules and regulations. Sound ridiculous? It is. Since that time, Bennett, who is black, has devoted his efforts to fighting drug traffic and weeding out corrupt pólice from the force, whether they are patrol officers or higher placed brass. He was designated commander of a special unit by the then Pólice Commissioner John Nichols, and was promoted to the rank of Commander of Special Detail 3 1 8 last year by Chief Philip Tannian. During his designation period. Bennett's probe resulted in the indictments by a citizen's grand jury of 28 persons for heroin traffic, including 12 pólice officers. The case is nnw underway in Recorder's Court. Former Detroit Pólice Commissioner Patrick V. Murphy. who preceded Nichols, said several months prior to his resignation that, "the record will show that there have not been enough examples of pólice officers report ing wrongdoing by other officers, especially superiors and commanders." He said the pólice haven't been doing their job as far as integrity is concerned, and "I'm fed up." But apparently none have been able to deal with racism on the force. In 1973, they terrorized Detroit citizens, whose homes were illegally broken into and searched when pólice were engaged in the manhunt for John Boyd, Mark Bethune and Hayward Brown. Atty. Ernest Goodman filed suit on behalf of seven relatives of the three men in Circuit Court. The case was heard by Circuit Judge Thomas Foley, who granted Goodman's motion to extend the class action suit to all Detroit citizens who might suffer similar harassment by pólice in the searcli for the fugitives. Foley cited the fourth amendment of the Bill of Rights, which states: "The rights of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation. and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized." In what was termed a ■"landmark decisión," Foley ruled that Detroit pólice had violated the constitutional rights of citizens whose homes they entered without search warrants in their hunt for the suspects, and ordered an end to such invasions. Cases of brutality were numerous, not ónly on private citizens, but there were re ports of white pólice officers attacking black officers. One such case, that received wide publicty in April 1973, involved confrontations at the Fifth Precinct. where black officers charged that they were attacked and beaten by white officers. A white pólice officer who testified on the side of the black officers was reportedly threatened and resigned from the force. There are many other cases. But since Mayor Young has created some 18 mini-stations around the city, many overt acts of racism have been minimized. Moreover, the climate is quite a bit better, because Young. in keeping with his campaign promise, has put more pólice on the street. They are visible, and the difference is demonstrated by the attitude of the people where these services are available. Although the same situations do not exist totally in all of the mini-stations, several people in the área can be seen visiting the stations. A number of officers know many of their neighbors by name, and the people around there say they feel much more comfortable and safer. Young's promise of 50 mini-stations has not been met because of the financial slump, but he has vowed that the goal will be accomplished as soon as the adequate funds are available. "It's one good way to put a roadblock in the path of rising crime," Young said. 'Tve always believed that visibility of pólice officers will surely bring about better police-community relations. Where the people trust and respect their pólice, they will cooperate, and with that kind of relationship, we are bound to have a safer community for all the citizens of Detroit.". Coleman Young is the f irst Mayor of Detroit who has squared off in a sudden death match with the pólice unions. Young is tougher than they expected him to be, and is viewed as a real threat to the old power.