Cushingberry (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
Detroit— Detroit police officials have launched an investigation into why a police supervisor decided not to arrest newly elected City Council President Pro Tem George Cushingberry Jr. after officers stopped him Tuesday night outside a northwest-side strip bar with, sources say, an open intoxicant and marijuana in his car.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig told The Detroit News the incident happened about 10 p.m. as Cushingberry drove near Livernois and Northfield.
A police source familiar with the investigation said the councilman was leaving Starvin Marvin’s and almost hit police officers. Two sources confirmed that marijuana and an open intoxicant were found in Cushingberry’s car.
“There was a legal stop made by a Detroit police officer, and a supervisor was contacted,” Craig said. “A decision was made that warranted a review by this administration, and an internal complaint was opened against the supervisor. There was no arrest made; the decision was made by the supervisor to only issue a citation.”
Cushingberry did not respond to multiple phone calls by The Detroit News seeking comment Thursday night. In an interview broadcast on WDIV-TV (Ch. 4) at 11 p.m. Thursday, he said he wasn’t coming out of a strip club but a lounge on Livernois.
“I was coming out of the Penthouse Lounge, which is one of the places I’ve campaigned in all year,” Cushingberry said.
Council member Saunteel Jenkins said if the allegations are true, they are unfortunate.
“After all that this city has gone through at this time in our history, it’s more important than ever to have elected officials to serve with the utmost integrity,” she said.
Because Cushingberry, 61, hasn’t been arrested or charged with a crime, Craig would not comment on what officers found.
According to sources, the officers gave chase after almost being hit, but the councilman did not stop. Another squad car was called in to help with the chase.
The source said officers finally stopped Cushingberry’s car and spotted the open alcohol container and smelled marijuana.
“When they finally stopped him, he took off again,” the source said. “Then, he was stopped a second time and (Cushingberry) flashed his City Council ID card. There was another guy in the car who had a medical marijuana card, but it doesn’t matter; you’re not allowed to smoke in the car. A supervisor came over and put the kibosh on it, and issued a ticket for failure to signal. The officers did exactly what they were supposed to do.”
Craig declined to go into details about the incident. The department released a statement late Thursday confirming the stop but did not add details.
“Because there was no arrest, I don’t want to get into the nature of the stop,” Craig said. “But because (Cushingberry) wasn’t arrested, we’re looking into all aspects of the investigation.”
Craig said the officers who pulled over the councilman acted properly by legally stopping Cushingberry, and that they followed department protocol by immediately telling their supervisor about the incident.
“Whenever officers initiate an investigation involving a public official, they’re required to notify a supervisor,” Craig said. “The notification is also supposed to go to the chief’s office, and we’re also looking into why we weren’t notified.”
Cushingberry told WXYZ-TV (Ch. 7) in an interview aired at 11 p.m. Thursday that he and his friend had a drink at the Penthouse Lounge but there was “no way” he was legally drunk.
“I wasn’t doing anything wrong,” Cushingberry told WXYZ, adding there was no alcohol in his vehicle, only an old bottle from the week prior that had not yet been discarded. He said he was not given a sobriety test.
“I think it’s because I’ve been shaking up so many things,” he told the station. “I think it’s a part of what I call driving while black syndrome amongst these white cops in Detroit who are picking on people with old cars.”
Detroit-based political analyst Steve Hood said “it’ll be bad,” if the allegations are true, but they won’t end Cushingberry’s career.
“It’s always damaging,” Hood said. “Is it career ending? No.”
On Monday, Detroit’s council elected Cushingberry to act as its second in command. Cushingberry, a former state legislator and Wayne County commissioner, made waves this week for responding online to an unfavorable Detroit News editorial about him by typing “go to hell.”
Shortly after being elected the council’s pro tem Monday, Cushingberry told the media he and Council President Brenda Jones “made a deal” and were able to “put together a coalition” that secured his rank on the panel.
Cushingberry has also said Detroit has been “dysfunctional” over the last four years and touted plans to balance its the city’s budget and improve the quality of life of its residents.