The ACLU of Michigan is calling on the Justice Department to launch an investigation into the Taylor Police Department following “an ongoing pattern and practice” of excessive force and racial discrimination.
In a 27-page letter to the Justice Department, the ACLU cites 20 instances of “alleged and documented acts of unconditional, extreme violence committed by Taylor police officers.”
“A new culture and a new vision of public safety are needed for the Taylor Police Department,” Mark P. Fancher, ACLU of Michigan’s Racial Justice Project staff attorney, said at a news conference Tuesday. “For years, brutality and excessive force have been embedded in the Taylor Police Department’s culture, and too many of the officers have behaved as if they are an occupying army in a war zone. No one should have to live in fear of the very people who are supposed to protect and serve them.That’s why we call on the Department of Justice to investigate and do what it can to eliminate violence, escalation of tensions, and racially biased policing.”
In many of the encounters, police forcibly removed drivers from their cars and beat them following a routine traffic stop. The ACLU alleges that Taylor cops often escalate encounters and then respond with violence, especially when the suspect is Black.
The ACLU pointed to dash-cam footage
that shows how police handled Calvin Jones, a 26-year-old Black motorist, when he asked why the officer wanted his ID in April 2016. Officers responded by smashing his window, dragging him out of his car, and placing him in a chokehold until he lost consciousness.
In August, Taylor Officer Tyler Peake, 23, was charged with assault
and misconduct in office after he pointed a gun at an unarmed driver and repeatedly punched him during a traffic stop in April 2020. Video footage showed six other officers striking the driver, 33-year-old Brendan Morgan. One of the officers at the scene was caught on camera telling Morgan, “Welcome to Taylor.” Police downplayed the encounter and falsely stated in a police report that Morgan walked away from officers.
A black couple filed a federal lawsuit
against the police department last month, alleging cops assaulted them during a traffic stop in front of their terrified 3-year-old daughter. The father, Imani Ringgold-D’Abell, was pulled from his car and repeatedly tased and punched in the stomach after a cop said he lacked have a valid ID, though he did have a valid, temporary one.
In 2016, five Taylor cops pointed their guns at 18-year-old Chris Saul, who is autistic, and pulled him from his car and tackled him after he had become confused during a traffic stop for speeding. His mother Kristina Katterman-Saul said Thursday that her son was jailed for 24 hours without food or a phone call. Saul, who graduated as valedictorian of his high school, was so distraught that he dropped out of college and now works on an assembly line, his mother said.
“He remains traumatized by what happens,” Katterman-Saul said.
Fancher said the encounters are part of a "culture of cruelty" in Taylor.
The ACLU said the police department has demonstrated a pattern of racial bias, and its officers disproportionately resort to violence with Black suspects. In one example, the ACLU provided a link to a video
of officers showing restraint toward an uncooperative white suspect carrying an assault rifle.
“At the pedestrian’s demand, supervisory officers were called, and the entire group of officers on the scene appeared to go out of their way to cater to all the young man’s whims,” the ACLU says in the letter. “There is no apparent reason other than race why the Black men, under very comparable circumstances, encountered intense hostility, intimidation, and violence.”
Jeffrey Edison, of the National Conference of Black Lawyers Michigan Chapter, said the racial discrimination must end.
“Police have maintained a notorious reputation for racial profiling, harassment and violence against African Americans in and around the city of Taylor,” Edison said. “It is common knowledge that African Americans must be overly cautious and careful when engaged with police. The complaints of police abuse and misconduct by Taylor police against African Americans have lingered too long without fair and reasonable resolution.”
Although 16% of Taylor’s population is Black, the police department didn’t hire its first Black cop until 2012, the ACLU said. Today, only one of the city’s 75 officers is Black, according to the ACLU.
Despite numerous police brutality lawsuits against the city and a plethora of video evidence showing cops using excessive force, the ACLU alleges the department’s officers continue to act with impunity.
“Our objective is to put leadership in Taylor in a position where it has no alternative to making fundamental changes in the police department, and that such changes will ensure that law enforcement is not only bias-free, transparent and accountable, but also suited to the actual needs of the city,” Fancher said. “Taylor needs a department of responsible, skilled professionals who are equipped to deal with not only violent crime, but also other situations like mental health crises, drug emergencies and community disputes. We want a new reality, where when police officers say,‘Welcome to Taylor,’ they actually do all they can to ensure all people are treated with dignity, respect, and are welcome.”
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