If News Hits were to hand out a “Tenacious Reporter of the Year” award, it would surely go to Michigan Citizen staff writer Diane Bukowski. She has been relentless in her attempts to reveal what the City of Detroit learned when it investigated its most notorious killer cop.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Wendy M. Baxter recently ruled that the paper is entitled to portions of what has become known as the “Shoulders Report.” The document focuses on Detroit police officer Eugene Brown, who fatally shot three people and wounded a fourth in his first six years on the force.
“It’s quite a landmark ruling on her part and took guts for her to do it,” says Bukowski in praise of Baxter.
But the victory won’t be complete until Bukowski has the report in hand, and that hasn’t happened yet. Release has been delayed yet again by the city’s continued legal maneuvering.
Bukowski was the first reporter to draw attention to Brown’s lethal record. Other local media followed in her tracks and public outrage built.
In 2000, former Detroit Police Chief Benny Napoleon ordered then-deputy chief, now-assistant chief, Walter Shoulders to conduct a comprehensive investigation of all the shootings in an effort to quell the controversy. But instead of being used to assure the public that the shootings were justified, the report was never released, and the city has fought to keep it secret ever since.
Bukowski filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the city seeking the report, but was denied. She submitted a second FOIA request last year. When it too was denied, the Citizen turned to the courts.
The city argued that releasing the report would interfere with internal communications as well as ongoing litigation involving Brown.
But attorney Jerome D. Goldberg, who represents the Citizen pro bono, argued that the public’s right to know outweighs the city’s confidentially claim. Last week Judge Baxter ruled that the Citizen is entitled to portions of the report. But the city quickly filed a request asking Baxter to reconsider the ruling, saying that she was ordering the information to be released in a way that put it in improper context, allowing it to “easily be misconstrued or misused,” according to city spokesman Howard Hughey.
As of Monday, Baxter was still reviewing the request to reconsider her ruling.Send comments to [email protected]