June 19, 2014 at 5:33 pm

Commander of Detroit Police drug unit files whistle-blower complaint

Detroit— The lieutenant in charge of the Detroit Police Narcotics Section has filed a federal whistle-blower complaint, claiming he was the victim of racial discrimination and subjected to a hostile work environment for reporting wrongdoing in the drug unit.

Lt. Charles Flanagan, who is white, filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on May 28, four days after Internal Affairs conducted an audit of the Narcotics Section, his attorney, Mike Rataj, said Thursday.

When Flanagan, a 29-year police veteran who sits on the Harper Woods City Council, assumed command of the unit in November, Rataj said he uncovered numerous issues, including a sergeant who had failed to turn in 32 pieces of drug evidence confiscated from hospitalized suspects; and another sergeant who made up false evidence tags for items seized during drug raids including three flat-screen TVs, a laptop computer, and an Xbox 360 video game system. Flanagan alleges the officer kept them for personal use.

Flanagan claims he and two other white officers who are his friends were going to be transferred because he reported the incidents, which happened before he commanded the unit.

Deputy Chief Daryl Brown, who recommended the transfer, ran the drug unit when the alleged violations occurred in 2011. Brown, who is African-American, currently is in charge of the Criminal Investigations Bureau, which oversees Narcotics.

The May 24 Narcotics Section audit and subsequent investigation, which is ongoing, were launched after Flanagan informed Police Chief James Craig about the alleged violations, both Craig and Rataj confirmed.

Craig insisted he told Flanagan he would not act on Brown’s recommendation to transfer him and added: “I have not, nor will I make any personnel decisions based on race, creed, or sexual orientation.

“I’m the only person who can order transfers, and I specifically told Flanagan twice that despite the recommendation by the deputy chief, I wasn’t going to transfer him,” Craig said.

Flanagan, who was a narcotics officer in the late 1980s, claims in his EEOC complaint that Brown wanted to transfer him because he reported alleged violations by longtime allies of Brown, including the sergeant who allegedly withheld evidence seized from hospitalized suspects, who is now Brown’s driver.

“Deputy Chief Brown tried to transfer Lt. Flanagan because he reported his subordinates for possible criminal activity that took place under Brown’s watch,” Rataj said. “Since taking over narcotics, Lt. Flanagan has initiated six separate Internal Affairs investigations into things he’s uncovered.”

“People want to say everything bad only happened when Kwame (Kilpatrick) was mayor, but nothing has changed,” said Rataj, who represented the former mayor’s top aide Bobby Ferguson during a federal corruption trial. “When an officer tries to blow the whistle on wrongdoing, the people in charge retaliate.”

Craig insisted nobody retaliated against Flanagan, and said he quickly investigated all his claims of wrongdoing in the unit.

“When this investigation was initiated, it was against only one employee,” he said. “From that probe, we determined there were additional issues. We were trying to determine if seized property was accounted for, and through that review, we found additional property that hadn’t been accounted for.”

ghunter@detroitnews.com
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