Letter to the chief

May 15, 2002 at 12:00 am

Dear Detroit Police Chief Jerry Oliver: As you know, another person bit the dust in one of your precinct lockups last month. Attorney David Robinson filed his 11th jail-death lawsuit against the City of Detroit last week. This time Robinson is representing the family of Paul Harris who was arrested and detained at the Sixth Precinct April 2. He was found dead in his cell the following day, according to the suit. Although Harris was suffering from drug withdrawal, jailers failed to place him in a detoxification cell where he could be closely monitored, the lawsuit states.

That makes at least 23 deaths Detroit in police precinct lock-ups since 1994. What’s so troubling, sir, is that we spoke to former police chief Benny Napoleon about the problem three years ago, when this publication broke the story about detainees dying (“Death in the lockup,” Metro Times, Sept. 15-21, 1999). Though Napoleon vowed to do all he could, the bodies keep piling up, and the U.S. Justice Department is investigating. If you want to make a difference in Detroit — and save the city a lot of money — make good on your predecessor’s promise.

Ann Mullen is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail her at [email protected]