George Cushingberry Jr. (Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News)
Detroit — City Council President Pro Tem George Cushingberry tried twice to elude police the night he was stopped outside a northwest-side bar, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said.
Craig Friday provided new details about the Jan. 7 traffic stop involving Cushingberry, who allegedly had a half-smoked joint in his car’s center console, and a cup of liquor on the passenger’s side floor, according to the chief.
An internal investigation revealed the two officers who initiated the stop acted properly, but Craig said a disciplinary probe into the actions of the sergeant who allowed the councilman to drive away without giving him a field sobriety test is ongoing.
“Our investigation suggests the councilman was given preferential treatment,” Craig said. “What would Mr. Jones or Mrs. Smith say if they were confronted by police officers, and had no proof of insurance, expired registration, no evidence of a driver’s license, open alcohol, and marijuana in their vehicle?”
The findings of the initial investigation have been turned over to the city’s Office of Inspector General, which is conducting its own review.
Cushingberry, who did not return a phone call seeking comment, has maintained he was pulled over because he was racially profiled. Craig insisted that’s not true.
“The councilman pulled into oncoming traffic and failed to signal, and in doing so, cut off the path of a marked police unit as he was leaving the Penthouse Lounge,” Craig said.
Officers turned on the cruiser’s lights and siren, and Cushingberry pulled over, Craig said.
“However, as the officers exited their police vehicle and began to approach (on foot), Mr. Cushingberry began to drive a short distance,” Craig said.
The officers, one black and one Arab-American, broadcast over the police radio that their subject had driven away, but the councilman again pulled over, Craig said.
“As the officers requested Councilman Cushingberry’s driver’s license, he attempted to turn on the vehicle, at which time one of the officers reached in and recovered the keys,” the chief said. “The officer ... noticed ... a strong odor of marijuana. Also, both officers not only noticed that there was an an empty alcohol bottle of alcohol, but there was a half-filled cup of alcohol inside the vehicle.
“In addition to that, the initial responding officers discovered what appeared to be in the center console a smoked marijuana cigarette,” Craig said. “The passenger (Cushingberry’s friend, Richard Clement), had four marijuana cigarettes on his person.”
Four other officers responded to the radio call that Cushingberry had initially driven away, Craig said. When the sergeant showed up, reportedly about an hour later, he told the other four officers to leave the scene, the chief said.
“The sergeant failed to fully explore what the observations were by the officers at the scene, but we do know, based on the officers’ statements, that the councilman was uncooperative during that encounter; that he did mention his status as a councilperson by showing his ID. No driver’s license was shown; no proof of insurance, and his vehicle registration was expired by one day.”
Then, Craig said, the supervisor told the original officers to issue Cushingberry a ticket for failing to signal. The sergeant faces discipline, but won’t be fired, Craig said.
When asked whether the officers pulled Cushingberry over because he’s black, as the councilman claims, Craig said: “This was not driving while black; it was police officers doing police work. ”
Craig said he won’t pursue charges against Cushingberry. “A decision was made that night not to do it,” he said. “We say it was not a good decision.”