June 20, 2014 at 9:34 am

Not enough proof Cushingberry sought special treatment, probe finds

George Cushingberry Jr. (Clarence Tabb Jr / The Detroit News)

Detroit — A probe launched in the wake of a controversial traffic stop of the City Council’s President Pro Tem involving alcohol and marijuana has concluded there’s not enough evidence to suggest the councilman sought preferential treatment from police.

In a report released late Thursday, Detroit Inspector General James Heath determined there was “insufficient evidence” to support allegations that George Cushingberry Jr. used his position of power to influence Detroit Police officers during the stop.

The incident, in which police claimed Cushingberry twice eluded officers, sparked a separate internal investigation within the police department, with Chief James Craig concluding that he did believe the first-term councilman received preferential treatment from a supervisor involved.

The stop outside a bar occurred days after Cushingberry took office. Police allegedly found a cup of liquor and a half-smoked marijuana cigarette in his car. He was issued a ticket for failure to signal, but not given a field sobriety test.

Cushingberry denied the claims and any wrongdoing.

Todd Russell Perkins, an attorney for Cushingberry, said his client is glad to put the incident behind him and is keeping his focus on the affairs of the city.

“It was an investigation that was done to ensure to the public that everything was done right and (Cushingberry) was not afforded different treatment than other people,” Perkins said Friday, adding he never believed Cushingberry abused his authority.

“He can put that behind him. The most important challenge he’s always been focused on is governing the city. He hasn’t taken his eyes off of the prize on that.”

Heath, in his report, also recommends that the city’s executive and legislative branches formulate policies for the non-official interaction of its employees with law enforcement and other city personnel. Further, the Detroit Police Department should review its policies to ensure it “does not mistakenly create an atmosphere of favoritism,” he wrote.

The 11-page report also gives an overview of interviews conducted through the course of the city’s investigation, including accounts from the councilman and officers.

“All of the parties described the scene of the stop as tension-filled,” Heath’s report reads. “Councilman Cushingberry believed that he had been wrongfully detained, and the officers were frustrated by what they believed was his refusal to cooperate fully.”

The report notes the accounts from police and the councilman over what transpired vary.

One officer involved claimed when approached, Cushingberry identified himself by holding his City Council badge out the window, and asked “Do you know who I am?”

He also failed to provide a driver’s license “despite repeated requests” and “repeated that he was a City Council member, a lawyer and that his civil rights were being violated,” the report says.

But Cushingberry gave an account that painted a picture of cooperation and unfair treatment from police. He claimed the officers were “harassing and racially profiling him” and accused him of attempting to run away and then pulled from his vehicle and handcuffed, Heath’s findings show.

CFerretti@detroitnews.com
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