Detroit Police Commissioner Willie Burton (Facebook)
Detroit— A city police commissioner is under investigation on claims he used his authority to improperly campaign for Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano’s re-election.
Willie Burton, who represents District 5 on the east side, is accused of flashing his police department-issued badge to gain access to a locked apartment building in his district, where he slid Ficano campaign literature under doorways.
When the building manager told him to leave, the commissioner allegedly got into an argument with him, according to the manager, who filed the complaint this week with the Board of Police Commissioners. On Wednesday, the commission forwarded the matter to Detroit Inspector General James Heath.
“We received the complaint and have opened a case,” Inspector General spokesman Kamau Marable said Friday.
Attempts to reach Burton were unsuccessful. It was unclear when the alleged incident happened.
The investigation is the second controversy involving the police commission this week. On Wednesday, The Detroit News reported that an Internal Affairs audit of the board found a bulletproof vest and other equipment assigned to the board was missing, and that the board’s administrative assistant had used the gas card of a woman who died in 2005.
“We can’t have these things,” Commissioner Reggie Crawford said.
“There needs to be an investigation into this Willie Burton thing, and let the chips fall where they may. Things like this hurt the credibility of the commission.”
Burton is openly supportive of Ficano, the Democratic executive who is facing a re-election challenge. Burton’s Facebook cover photo shows him marching behind a Ficano banner, and he has posted pro-Ficano messages.
Mort Meisner, spokesman for the Ficano campaign, said he was unaware of the alleged incident.
“Willie Burton has been, and continues to be, a great asset to Robert Ficano’s campaign,” Meisner said. “And, also, the more likely scenario is that an individual asked him for his identification, and in that process, he likely showed his badge. I can’t imagine any other scenario.”
Burton is one of seven elected police commissioners.