Justice steps in

Dec 20, 2000 at 12:00 am

Sure, News Hits was thrilled by last week’s announcement that the U.S. Justice Department will conduct a full-blown investigation of the Detroit Police Department. We’re just sorry it took so long.

After all, the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality has been crying out about the problem of police shootings for more than two years.

We’d have a hell of a lot more respect for Mayor Dennis Archer if he had taken action before an avalanche of negative news stories came tumbling down from all sorts of local media this past year.

On the other hand, we have to give the Justice Department credit for including in its investigation the deaths of four inmates who died while in police custody or precinct holding cells. Metro Times reporter Ann Mullen broke that story last year ("Death in the lockup,” MT, Sept. 15-21, 1999) and, surprisingly, neither the Detroit Free Press nor the Detroit News picked up on it. Now that the Justice Department is investigating these deaths, maybe other local media will bother to take a look as well.

Footnote No. 1: What was Archer thinking when he suggested that the Justice Department conduct a superficial inquiry? News Hits applauds the Justice Department for ignoring Archer’s request, deciding instead to investigate whether there is a pattern and practice within the department of violating citizens’ rights. That investigation could take up to 18 months.

Footnote No. 2: According to last week’s Detroit News’ article on this issue, Police Chief Benny Napoleon is eligible for retirement next April. Napoleon is quoted as saying, “By the end of April, I’ll meet with Mayor Archer and look at my options.” Maybe News Hits is reading too much into this, but is Napoleon already looking for an out before the Justice Department completes an investigation that might lay blame at the feet of the chief?

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