Detroit City Council member Ken Cockrel Jr. has heard enough talk. Now he wants some action. The subject is the Detroit Police Department, and the fact too many of its officers have a tendency to shoot first and ask questions later. Cockrel, as explained in a Jan. 17 memo to fellow council members, has concluded that more oversight is needed. And if that means changing the City Charter, then so be it.
In the memo, Cockrel outlined a seven-point plan to shed more light on the department’s handling of problem officers. Among other things, Cockrel suggests that the council “strongly consider amending the City Charter to allow it to appoint its own members to the Board of Police Commissioners.” As it is now, the mayor has sole discretion in deciding who serves on the board. The problem is that if a particular mayor (we’re talking theoretically here, of course) is more concerned about this city’s image than actually protecting its citizens from bad cops, then he or she will appoint review board members willing to sweep problems under the body bags, so to speak.
Cockrel suggests that the five-member panel be composed of two mayoral appointees, two members selected by council, and a fifth chosen by the mayor but needing council approval.
“This could go a long way toward creating a more independent board,” suggests Cockrel. “As long as the mayor has the power to appoint all board members and to remove them without cause, the independence of this body will always be called into question by the media and members of the community.”
Cockrel was one of several council members to make reform recommendations, which will be compiled by the council’s director of research and development, Kathie Dones-Carson, who will present a report to council on the issue, possibly as early as this week.
“It’s important to keep in mind that the vast majority of Detroit’s police officers are doing a hell of a good job,” Cockrel told News Hits. “The question is, what are we going to do with the few rotten apples?”
Peel them?News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette, the Metro Times news editor. Call 313-202-8004 or e-mail [email protected]