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Access denied 

Fortunately Lori Bobbitt Waddles, chief investigator for Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, needs only a “light, desk and good eyes” to do her job. Were Waddles reliant on the Police Department’s computer database to investigate citizen complaints against officers, she — and the public — would be, as they say, SOL.

Waddles alleged at the police commissioners board meeting last week that, without warning, Second Deputy Chief Ursula Henry “shut down” access to the database.

What makes the whole thing so strange is that Henry herself is not yet privy to the information, but can keep others out.

Waddles’ 18-person staff investigates citizen complaints and provides her with reports of the findings. (As of July 20, 488 complaints were filed with the board against Detroit officers compared to 519 this time last year.)

After review, Waddles gives the reports to the board members for a final determination. The status of each complaint is logged onto the database — which is still in its formative stage.

The idea is that Henry, who heads the police risk assessment section, will use at least some portions of the database when it’s complete to track cop conduct in an attempt to reduce the number of lawsuits filed against the city. For years, critics of the department have demanded that a tracking system be established. The issue was raised again recently as a result of media attention being paid to the high number of police shootings.

But the board thinks it might be a good idea to keep some information in the database confidential. That would help promote full disclosure by both the public and police and limit the possibility of retaliation or harassment against officers and complainants.

According to Pamoline McDonald, executive secretary for the board, Henry shut off access to the database after being told there needed to be a discussion about the scope of data that would be made available to her.

“Never did I say, ‘No, you won’t have access,’” said McDonald. “I made it clear we would work with her, but had concerns about full access to the database.”

McDonald said the database was still shut down as of July 24.

News Hits contacted Henry, who did not attend the board meeting. She declined to comment.

The five-member police board was visibly angered by Waddles’ report.

“That database belongs to the board,” said Commissioner Zeline Richard. “I don’t understand anyone having the power to cut off access to something that belongs to us. We have to get with the chief.”

The board also said it will ask Henry to attend the next meeting, which will be held at 3 p.m. on Thursday, July 27, at the First Precinct headquarters, 1300 Beaubien.

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or cguyette@metrotimes.com

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