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The Sun Interview With Coleman Young, Part Ii: Changing The Police...

The Sun Interview With Coleman Young, Part Ii: Changing The Police... image The Sun Interview With Coleman Young, Part Ii: Changing The Police... image
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In theflrst part of the SUN 's exclusive in-üepth interview witli Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, we explorcd Coleman 's formative experiences growing up on the city 's Kast Side; his his tor y of civil rights and labor activism; and the cvents that led to his entering the mayoral race in 9 73. In that campaign, the State Senator and Democratie floor leader in the Michigan legisla ture faced a hard-line "law and order" candida te, former Pólice Commissioner John Nichols. Nichols, who refused to resign as Commissioner un til the courts forced him to, had the enthusiastie backing of Detroit pólice, traditionally a dominant forcé in mayoral politics Itere. The pólice, especially the controversial paramilitary STRESS unit (Stop the Robberies-Enjoy Safe Streets), were drawing increasingly heavy criticism from the black community and its allies. STRESS officers were responsible for at least seventeen fatalities during the unit 's three-year existence. Accordingly , Coleman made reform of the DPD perhaps the single most important issue in his campaign. Since his victory in the election, this has provided him with one of the toughest challenges of his long political career. In this segment ofour interview with the Mayor, Coleman offers his candid views on the pólice and his approach to another major source of conflict and disruption in the city -the federal government 's Department of Housing and Urban Development (H. U.D.) and the disastrous failure of its programs in Detroit. SUN : With all the problems facing the city, why do you feel it 's so important, first and foremost, to reform the Policë Department? COLEMAN: I think that as the fear of crime is elevated -i to a primary 0 political - jj" issue- in many cases, artificially elevated ■- in cities around the nation- the power of the pólice as servants of the people lias been exaggerated. And the pólice associations, which are not unions in the bona fule sense of the word, have beconie more and more arrogant in their reach for power. I have said many times that unless this trend is checked, you'll have a string of pólice cities, pólice states, with the pólice actually controlling the body politie of the various cities. This happened in Detroit- because when Ray Gribbs was elected Mayor, he was elected by an overt coalition of the Detroit Pólice üfficers Association (DPOA) and a group of reactionary white homeowners whicli called themselves the "Real Detroit Committee" (a takeoff on New Detroit). The President of the DPOA stated that the DPOA was going to run and elect its own candidate for Mayor. As a matter of fact, they did that, and that candidate was Ray Gribbs. This is one of the many instances of pólice engaging in a politica! takeover of a city. As you know, it happened in Indianapolis, I believe;it happened in Philadelphia; it's happening in cities around the nation. The pólice, in relation to a city, are a military organization. They're the city's army. I think one of the most profound statements Eisenhower ever made-as he left office, if you remember- was warning the nation about the danger of the "military-industrial complex," as he called it, that threatened to actually take over the politica! direction of the country, and cautioning Americans to the ever-constant absolute necessity of preserving civilian control over the military. SUN: The best thtng he ever said. COLEMAN: I agree with you absolutely. I applied it very literally. Any bureaucracy is difficuli to control, and all bureau cracy reaches for power beyond that which it is legitimately entitled. But a bureaucracy that not only has the power, a permanence and self-continuation, but is armed and therefore ha: the power of life and death and punishment, then becomes another damn animal. It's more than a bureaucracy- it's a potential source of takeover- a putsch, you know, a military dictatorship. In every city in America, the proportion of blacks in the population is not reflected in the pólice department. The pólice are predominantly white, predominantly conservative. The fact that they could even mount the demand to live outside the city raises the spectre of the foreign anny of occupation. You must read Tuebor, DPOA's official publication. They consistently refer to the black citizens of this city as "jungle bunnies." SUN: Ron Sext on, the President of the DPOA, has some o t fier ehoice words for you. COLEMAN: In one column he wrote maybe three or four years ago, he described me as a "clown" or a "bozo," and he described Judge Del Rio the same way. Now, Del Rio sued him and picked up some damages. I have the same grounds for suit, but I don't believe in playing , around in courts. Ifit keeps on, I may contiiuu'd on page,. YOUNG ON THE PÓLICE fContinued from page 5 be forced to take some action. But anyhow, there's no question in my mind that we must have what I have described as a "people's pólice forcé"- a pólice forcé that, in the first place, is reflective of the people among whom it must work, and for whom it does work, although many of them don't realize it. And they must be based in the neighborhoods where the people live. 1 am still looking around for a means of rewarding pólice officers who live in the community where they enforce the law. How can you not have a stake in the community if your wife and kids go out to shop? Or if you're a female pólice officer, and your spouse is living and working around the neighborhood, you have a stake there. Not accidentally, you know, the crime stats in this city are the lowest in those areas which are known as "copper canyons"- where the pólice stay, generally on the outskirts of our city-because the pólice officers have a stake in maintaining the peace in their community. They don't have that same concern for the "jungle bunnies," etc. SUN: How much progress do you think you 've made in reforming the DPD? COLEMAN: I think we've made considerable progress. There's a lot of progress yet to be made. We're up to 27 per cent black officers now, from 15 or 16 per cent when I took office. We'd be further along the line if it were not for the fact that the city ran out of money and we had to drastically cut back-well, just bring to a halt our hiring. We're barely able to provide replacements, in terms of the fiscal crisis we now face. But we employ a larger percentage of blacks in1 the Detroit Pólice Department than any other city in the nation, except for Washington, D.C. There's no question that we have a larger percentage of blacks at the command level- in fact, an absolute larger number. We might have as many blacks at inspector level and over than all the rest of the pólice departments in the nation put together. So we've made some dramatic changes there. But you know, it's not enough to have the generáis; you've got to have the foot troops if you're going to have any effective control over the army, right? Recognizing the need for as quickly as possible making our pólice department half black and half white, one proposal we have made for LEAA funds under the "Moving Detroit Forward" plan is to add some thousand black and minority pólice officers, over and above, assupernumeraries. We could use the extra pólice officers-to the extent that they are responsive to the people- in order to deal with the crime situation in our streets. We've costed it out at about $25 or $30 million, to carry for a period of three or four years a thousand extra pólice officers. By increasing over that time and by hiring in, because we have to, predominantly black and minority officers, we could bring it to 50-50 in short order. I don't believe the pólice can ever solve the problem of crime. It's a social condition. You can address yourself to a firm and fair enforcement of the law, which has a certain deterrent value, but even this cannot be done without the consent and cooperation of the people. You got to give respect and cooperation in order to get it. And this is an alien philosophy to most pólice departments, who believe in kickin' people in the ass and hittin' them over the head -especially those of minority groups or poor whites or Latinos or you name it- any group they don't consider to be like them. That's another thing- they superimpose their standards of conduct on the people, on the city. So I feel very strongly about the necessity of, number one, reforming the pólice department- and that would also apply to every other bureaucracy in city government. There's a philosophy that reflects itself within the pólice department that "Chiefs come and go, mayors come and go, but the pólice department goes on." What has happened is that you have a class of civil servant, a class of bureaucrat, who says "Fuck everybody." They insult the people, they don't respond to directives from above- I don't give a damn if you're progressive or reactionary, they do their thing. That's part of what's happening- government is no longer responsive to the people in the United States at any Ie vel. I think the best demonstration is local government, which is certainly closer to the people, and therefore should be responsive. The pólice are the best example of that. I know that as pólice now exist, they not only are unable to enforce the law, but they actually encourage lawlessness, in my opinión. SUN: How'sthat? COLEMAN: To the degree that they display a lack of cooperation, and in some cases a vitriolic hatred for the people, they encourage people to do wrong- and others who are neutral will not cooperate; they won't even point a finger at the wrongdoer. For two reasons: first of all, there's a certain distrust and hatred for the pólice and an empathy with the wrongdoer. Secondly, in many, many cases, with this arrogance there is also a certain corruption. The pólice are often in league with the wrongdoer, and you might very well be reporting to the guy who's part of the wrongdoing that you're reporting about-and that gets you in trouble. You know, the rules of survival in the jungle are very, very simple: "Keep your goddamn mouth shut, mind your own business," etc. It's the very opposite of the type of outgoing, militant expression of citizenship that is needed to have a viable and democratie society. SUN: How do you react to the revelations of the lOth Precinct Conspiracy Trial? COLEMAN: Well, I think we need to continue. The lOth is undoubtedly the tip of the iceberg. We are proceeding with other investigations. There is no question that all types of crime, most seriously dope distribution, are rampant in our city. And there's no question in my mind that most of these big dealers cannot opérate these elabórate and open networks without some kind of official collaboration. SUN: Do you think that, for the average person on the street in Detroit, the atmospliere in terms of the pólice has changed signifïcantly? COLEMAN: I think so. I think that people are beginning to believe that there is some recourse. It's very difficult to get through that damn bureaucracy, and we haven't perfected the machinery yet. But to the degree that we can, they know damn well that the pólice will be cracked down on. I believe more and more people understand where I'mcoming from. I believe the pólice also understand that, and they're a little more hesitant than they once were. We got a little bit better supervisión out there than we had. We believe there's a more professional-type guy at the top now. And so, to that degree, I think that what happened on Livernois is an example of a greater confidence in the administration's ability to make a determination as to how to handle this damn thing. SUN : We know that a very great portu n I of violent crimes and crimes against property in cities like Detroit, and especially Detroit, can be traced to heroin addiction and heroin traffic. How do youW feel about the need foran innova tive approach to Detroit 's heroin problem, sucli as the English system? COLEMAN: I think we need an innovative approach. It's obvious that the approach we have now is not working. I'm I certainly opposed to methadone maintenance. From what I've been able to find out as a result of some pretty serious I and intensive investigation, in the long run methadone has more negative effects upon the body and the mind than does heroin. And I'm told that withdrawal from methadone is an even more excruciating experience than withdrawal from heroin. To the degree that methadone treatment has any legitimacy, it would be, in my opinión, toward the view of withdrawal at a certain time, and not indefinite maintenance. In my opinión, that accomplishes nothing- it's just addiction to another drug. I'm not yet convinced that the English method is the answer, although I'm in the process now of re-examining that position. There is evidence on hand, and I'm checking it, that the number of addicts increases. For instance, there's no question that there are more alcoholics now, after Prohibition, than there were during the period of Prohibition. An I alcoholic, of course, is not pressed to commit crimes in order to satisfy his habit. I'm not convinced that the bnglish system, without some modification of it- which I haven't come up with yet- is the answer. In England, tliey attracted I addicts from all over the world. After they closed that down, then they discovered that the number of home-grown addicts was growing. And so the answer has got to be to find some type of combination of the medicinal and psychotherapeutic methods of withdrawal. The English system is maintenance, and I think that maintenance, whether with methadone or heroin, is not the answer. ,