Bullets and bad moods

Maryann Mahaffey is miffed. And maybe her bad mood is justified. Or maybe not. The Detroit City Council president pro tem was set off last week when she learned the Detroit Police Department purchased 2,000 hollow-point bullets. The controversial ammunition is designed to expand on impact, giving the slugs what law enforcement types like to call more “stopping power”; liberal types feel compelled to note that the bullets increase the risk of serious organ damage and decrease a victim’s chances of survival.

But Mahaffey isn’t just pissed at the purchase; there’s also the timing. The bullets were bought shortly before the Organization of American States (OAS) demonstration in Detroit last summer — and about five weeks before the city lifted its prohibition on the use of the ammo. The issue came to light last week when the Purchasing Department asked the City Council to approve an emergency order for the bullets, as well as gas masks, wooden batons, pepper fog generators, smoke grenades and other tactical equipment intended for crowd control of the demonstrations.

Mahaffey and council member Sheila Cockrel forced a delay in approving payment for the ammo, pointing out that the council should have been made aware of the emergency purchase no later than two weeks from when the equipment was obtained. But Deputy Police Chief John Clark says that the hollow-point bullets were purchased for the Special Response Team, which has always been permitted to use the ammunition even when regular patrol officers were not. Clark also says that the bullets were not purchased for the OAS demonstration, though they were listed among the tactical equipment intended for the event. And why was the council still in the dark more than three months after the bullets were bought? Clark says he doesn’t know.

Purchasing Director Audrey Jackson was also unable to explain the delay but said she will look into it. But none of this satisfies Mahaffey who asks: “If the bullets were just for the SRT, why were they included in the package for the OAS? And why were they ordered just before the OAS?”

Maybe Mahaffey’s questions could be answered today (Wed., Oct. 11) when Police Chief Benny Napoleon, Wayne County Prosecutor John O’Hair and the Board of Police Commissioners are scheduled to attend the 10 a.m. council session to talk about the use of lethal force and other issues. Maybe then Mahaffey’s bad mood will lift. Or maybe not.

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]

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