Union: Of­fi­cers told su­pe­ri­ors about fa­tal chase

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY GE­ORGE HUNTER The Detroit News

Two Detroit po­lice spe­cial op­er­a­tions of­fi­cers un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for their roles in a fa­tal high-speed chase im­me­di­ately filled out re­ports in­form­ing their su­per­vi­sors about the pur­suit, the pres­i­dent of the po­lice of­fi­cers union said Thurs­day.

“Th­ese of­fi­cers didn’t try to cover any­thing up,” Detroit Po­lice Of­fi­cers As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Mark Diaz in­sisted. “They didn’t fail to dis­close the chase.”

Po­lice Chief James Craig agreed he doesn’t think of­fi­cers Stephen Heid and Ron Cadez lied af­ter the in­ci­dent — but he added the of­fi­cers vi­o­lated depart­ment pol­icy by en­gag­ing in a high-speed pur­suit with­out an­nounc­ing it over po­lice air­waves and then fail­ing to ren­der first aid af­ter the man they were chas­ing crashed.

Craig said he sus­pended Heid and Cadez af­ter re­view­ing dash-cam footage that showed they ini­ti­ated the 35-sec­ond pur­suit Mon­day with­out no­ti­fy­ing dis­patch­ers, and then drove away af­ter 19-year-old Jerry Brad­ford slammed his car into a tree. Brad­ford was pro­nounced dead at the scene.

“There is no ev­i­dence at this point to say th­ese of­fi­cers lied af­ter the fact,” the chief said. “The is­sue is: They should not have chased the car in the first place; and they also failed to tell zone dispatch they were in­volved in a chase. Both are di­rect vi­o­la­tions of our writ­ten poli­cies.”

Craig said dash-cam footage showed the of­fi­cers fur­ther vi­o­lated pol­icy by fail­ing to ren­der aid to Brad­ford or call for med­i­cal help af­ter he crashed. Craig said the video shows the of­fi­cers con­tin­ued driv­ing, and then cir­cled back to the scene three min­utes later, af­ter a cit­i­zen phoned 911 to re­port the col­li­sion.

Craig has launched both in­ter­nal and crim­i­nal probes into the in­ci­dent. The Board of Po­lice Com­mis­sion­ers on Thurs­day night was pre­sented with a re­quest to with­hold pay from Heid and Cadez dur­ing their sus­pen­sions. Mem­bers said they will have an up­date at their meet­ing at 3 p.m. Thurs­day at Detroit Pub­lic Safety Head­quar­ters.

“We pre­sented it and now it’s

up to the board to re­view and make an as­sess­ment,” As­sis­tant Chief James White said.

Diaz in­sisted Heid and Cadez im­me­di­ately filled out re­ports no­ti­fy­ing su­per­vi­sors of the chase.

“They did what they were sup­posed to, and it’s not fair to say they didn’t dis­close the chase,” Diaz said. “If some­one from the com­mand struc­ture failed to tell the chief, that’s a dif­fer­ent mat­ter. It’s not cus­tom­ary for of­fi­cers to di­rectly tell the po­lice chief they were in­volved in a chase.”

When asked about the al­le­ga­tions that the two of­fi­cers failed to in­form dis­patch­ers dur­ing the case or help Brad­ford af­ter he crashed, Diaz said: “I can’t speak to that. There’s still an in­ves­ti­ga­tion go­ing on, and it’s com­pletely proper that the chief ini­ti­ated that in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Right now, we don’t have all the facts.

“But if the chief ’s po­si­tion is that those of­fi­cers didn’t no­tify the depart­ment about the chase, I know for a fact they filled out the re­quired re­port in a timely man­ner,” Diaz said. “There was no at­tempt to cover it up.”

Craig con­firmed he did not talk di­rectly to Heid or Cadez. He said there was a com­mu­ni­ca­tion break­down among com­man­ders in the hours af­ter the in­ci­dent.

“I kept ask­ing ‘was this a chase?’ and even the next morn­ing, I wasn’t get­ting a straight an­swer,” the chief said.

As­sis­tant Chief Arnold Wil­liams said he wasn’t able to tell Craig a pur­suit had taken place. “When I got the ini­tial no­ti­fi­ca­tion, no one told me there had been a pur­suit,” he said. “So when I told the chief, I still didn’t know ex­actly what had hap­pened.”

Wil­liams said the cap­tain had al­ready told an­other com­man­der and in­ter­nal af­fairs in­ves­ti­ga­tors about the chase.

“Since (the cap­tain) had al­ready told IA and an­other chief that there had a chase when he talked to me, I don’t think he was pur­posely try­ing to keep it from me,” he said. “He did ev­ery­thing right; he just didn’t in­clude the word ‘pur­suit’ when he told me about it. So I wasn’t able to tell the chief there’d been a pur­suit when we talked the next morn­ing.”

Craig said he be­came frus­trated he wasn’t get­ting a de­fin­i­tive an­swer. “I said, ‘ let’s look at the dash-cam,’” he said. “Once we re­viewed the tape, it was clear there were pol­icy vi­o­la­tions.”

Diaz said the in­ci­dent has “opened our eyes to a big­ger is­sue: Putting in­ex­pe­ri­enced of­fi­cers onto Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions de­tails.”

“Th­ese were two fairly new po­lice of­fi­cers,” Diaz said, adding Cadez is only a few months past his one-year pro­ba­tion­ary pe­riod, while Heid just cel­e­brated his third year on the job.

“Th­ese were not sea­soned vet­er­ans, and you want vet­er­ans on th­ese spe­cial ops de­tails,” Diaz said. “His­tor­i­cally, those units were re­served for ex­pe­ri­enced of­fi­cers. The prob­lem is, we’re los­ing a lot of our ex­pe­ri­enced of­fi­cers to de­part­ments that pay bet­ter, so the precincts are left with young of­fi­cers.

“Spe­cial op­er­a­tions are plain­clothes units, so they get a lot closer to crimes in progress than uni­formed of­fi­cers,” Diaz said. “Things move at light­ning speed. I’m not mak­ing ex­cuses, but the depart­ment is putting peo­ple into th­ese po­si­tions they’re not ready for.

“Cer­tainly, we train to per­form at op­ti­mal lev­els, but you need train­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence for some of th­ese po­si­tions,” Diaz said. “Also, po­lice of­fi­cers are hu­man. If you put in­ex­pe­ri­enced of­fi­cers into th­ese po­si­tions, it’s more likely mis­takes are go­ing to be made.”

Craig agreed there is a prob­lem.

“In­ex­pe­ri­ence is cer­tainly a con­cern, and I’m go­ing to hold th­ese com­mand of­fi­cers ac­count­able when they team up two- and three-year po­lice of­fi­cers in a unit that calls for more ex­pe­ri­ence,” Craig said.

“But make no mis­take: That has noth­ing to do with an of­fi­cer’s de­ci­sion to fol­low pol­icy and make a no­ti­fi­ca­tion when you’re pur­su­ing some­body so a su­per­vi­sor can be alerted,” Craig said. “Those are com­pletely sep­a­rate is­sues.”

As they sit out their sus­pen­sions, Heid and Cadez — who each were awarded a Medal of Honor this year by the Michi­gan As­so­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Po­lice — could be called to tes­tify in the Oct. 23 mur­der trial of Marquise Cromer, ac­cused of killing Detroit po­lice Sgt. Kenneth “Shark” Steil last year.

Heid and Cadez were with Steil when he was shot Sept. 12, 2016. They were hunt­ing Cromer, who al­legedly had gone on a spree that in­cluded shoot­ing his step­dad and a car wash cus­tomer.

As of­fi­cers from the 9th Precinct closed in on Cromer, pros­e­cu­tors say he opened fire with a shot­gun, strik­ing Steil in the shoul­der and chest. He later died as he pre­pared to be re­leased from the hospi­tal.

Cromer’s at­tor­ney San­ford Schul­man said Thurs­day Heid and Cadez are on the wit­ness list, though he said he isn’t sure if they’ll be called to tes­tify. “I’m plan­ning an in­san­ity de­fense, so the of­fi­cers aren’t the main fo­cus of our de­fense,” he said.

Heid and Cadez tes­ti­fied dur­ing Cromer’s pre­lim­i­nary ex­am­i­na­tion in May. Cadez said he drove Steil to St. John Hospi­tal af­ter he was shot.

Diaz said Thurs­day Heid and Cadez had no dis­ci­plinary his­tory. There are no law­suits against the of­fi­cers on file at ei­ther Wayne Cir­cuit or U.S. District courts.

“Th­ese of­fi­cers are en­ti­tled to the pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence like ev­ery­body else,” Diaz said. “Let’s have a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion and let the chips fall where they may. But th­ese of­fi­cers de­serve a fair shake while the in­ves­ti­ga­tion moves for­ward.”

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