Police will revise policies for traffic stops
A Detroit police internal investigation into a controversial downtown traffic stop involving a police commissioner has prompted some policy and training changes, Chief James Craig said Thursday.
Craig also criticized those who claimed the June 15 traffic stop was the result of racial profiling, insisting that in a city that’s 83 percent black, it’s more likely black motorists will be stopped.
Police commissioner and minister Edgar Vann complained at last week’s Board of Police Commissioners meeting about being stopped by an officer downtown. During the stop, the officer report- edly drew his pistol and ordered Vann to roll down all his windows.
Commission Chairman Willie Bell said at Thursday’s board meeting that the results of a probe by the board’s Office of the Chief Investigator will likely be presented to the board next week. Craig said an internal affairs investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Craig said Thursday he was concerned because the dashcam in the police car involved in the stop wasn’t working. Craig said an audit he ordered after the incident determined supervisors in the Downtown Services Section weren’t properly ensuring all equipment was op- erational before each shift, as required.
“There was an oversight because the vehicles downtown weren’t going through the same procedures as the vehicles in the precincts,” Craig said. “That will change.”
Craig said internal affairs officers pored through surveillance video from nearby buildings showing the stop on Larned outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.
“The thing I took note of is, there were a lot of pedestrians in the area, and no one seemed to be alarmed,” Craig said. “If a police officer makes a high-risk stop with a gun at his chest (as Vann claimed), people are going to respond to that.
“That’s not to say it didn’t happen,” Craig said. “These are still preliminary findings.”
Craig added officers are trained to hold weapons against their chests during active shooter situations, but not during traffic stops.
Vann, minister of Second Ebenezer Church on Dequindre, was not at Thursday’s meeting. He asked last week why the officer ordered him to roll down all of his windows, but he did not mention the windows were tinted, which is illegal in Michigan.
Craig told the board Thursday that officers are trained to tell motorists to roll down their tinted windows so they can see who is inside.
Craig said he talked with Vann recently. “He assured me the only reason for bringing it up was because he wanted to understand the policy,” he said.
Craig said he will order future officers to be trained to “dust off ” motorists after high-risk stops, which means officers will explain to motorists why they pulled their weapons, or took other actions.
“The officer should take a moment to explain why he did what he did,” Craig said.
Bell, who began his police career in the 1970s, said he wasn’t aware officers now usually order motorists to roll down tinted windows. “I’m glad we had this discussion,” he said.