Sarge in charge

Pardon our French, but what the hell is going on in the Detroit Police Department? Last week, the Detroit City Council approved a $20,000 legal settlement regarding alleged abuse by officer Eugene Brown.

Make that Sgt. Brown.

Brown has shot nine people, killing three of them, in his seven-year career. A recent “reinvestigation” of the three fatal shootings and one other shooting found no reason to prosecute Brown.

But Brown’s shooting people isn’t the only thing that has caused headaches for the city. Earlier this year, Trevor Pender sued the city, Brown and officer Mitchell Quinn, alleging false arrest and assault and battery. According to Pender’s attorney Steve Budaj, on Aug. 19, 1998, Pender and some friends were sitting in his parked car in front of his mother’s Detroit home listening to music. Brown approached the vehicle, asked Pender for his license and ordered him out of the car. When Pender’s mother stepped on the porch to find out what was happening, Brown allegedly cursed at her, put Pender in a headlock and said, “I’ll snap your fucking neck.” According to Budaj, Quinn did nothing during the incident.

Pender was charged with driving without a license, taken to the 10th Precinct and held overnight, says Budaj. Before filing the lawsuit, Pender filed a citizen’s complaint with the Police Department. After an internal investigation, Budaj says, Pender — who eventually pleaded guilty to not having a driver’s license in his possession — received a letter stating that Brown violated police policy by using improper force. That, Budaj says, was all the information Pender ever received regarding the case.

But according to an aide to City Council President Pro Tem Maryann Mahaffey, the council was told last week that Brown had not been disciplined even though the department found he had used improper force. Mahaffey wants to know why Brown was recently promoted to sergeant in light of the department finding in the 1998 incident.

The Detroit Police Department did not get back to News Hits before press time to answer our questions.

City attorney Krystal Crittendon explained to us that Brown approached Pender’s car because it was parked in the middle of the street late at night with rap music blaring. The door’s keyhole was punched out of the car, which caused Brown to suspect that the vehicle was stolen, and Pender did not have proof of insurance, registration or a license, says Crittendon.

She also says that the city, Brown, Quinn and Pender signed an agreement releasing all parties of any liability. Crittendon says that the city settled the case because it was cheaper than litigation, particularly with recent media attention surrounding the police department. Crittendon says that she was never told about the results of the internal investigation regarding Pender’s citizen’s complaint and that it had no bearing on why the case settled.

News Hits just wants to know this: What does it take to get the Detroit Police Department to discipline an officer? Or maybe roughing up citizens is a career-booster in this department.

Ann Mullen contributed to this week’s News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at [email protected] or
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