June 26, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Detroit narcotics unit to be reorganized into Major Violators Section

Detroit— The Detroit Police Narcotics Section, currently under an Internal Affairs investigation, is being disbanded, and a new unit, the Major Violators Section, will take its place.

The change, effective July 15, will avoid duplicating services and free more officers to patrol the city, Detroit Police James Craig said Thursday.

“Narcotics is not going away, but we currently have about 70 people working in the Section, and there was some duplication,” Craig said. “Under the new system, the Major Violators Section will investigate the major drug violators — the big stuff — while the smaller, street-level cases will be handled in the precincts, which is already being done by the 30 Series (plainclothes units) anyway.”

The head of the Narcotics Section, Lt. Charles Flanagan, feels the move may be a way to get him out of the unit, said his lawyer, Mike Rataj. Flanagan recently filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming he was discriminated against because he’s white and subjected to a hostile work environment for reporting wrongdoing.

“At this point, the timing of this restructuring does seem a little suspect,” Rataj said. He added that Flanagan can’t be transferred while the EEOC investigation is ongoing.

Craig insisted Flanagan’s case had nothing to do with his decision.

“We’re in the middle of a substantial internal investigation, and what we’re dealing with is much bigger than him,” Craig said. “I’m not going to restructure an entire unit because he filed an EEOC complaint; if I wanted to move him, I’d have moved him. He can apply to be in the new unit if he wants.”

As part of the restructuring, gang enforcement and the vice squad will be beefed up. Craig said he’ll likely put 20 investigators, two sergeants and a lieutenant into the Major Violators Section, which would free up dozens of officers for patrol positions.

“I’ve said many times: We need more officers in our precincts,” he said.

Craig would not comment on the ongoing Internal Affairs probe, which was launched after Flanagan brought several issues to the chief’s attention last month.

When Flanagan, a 29-year police veteran, assumed command of the unit in November, Rataj said he uncovered numerous problems, 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’s allegations sparked an audit of the Narcotics Section on May 24. Four days later, Flanagan, whom Rataj said made six separate complaints to Internal Affairs about problems in the unit, filed his EEOC complaint.

The lieutenant, who is a Harper Woods city councilman, 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, is in charge of the Criminal Investigations Bureau, which oversees Narcotics.

Craig said he told Flanagan he would not act on Brown’s recommendation to transfer him. The chief also denied that Flanagan was retaliated against, and said he quickly investigated all his claims of wrongdoing in the unit.

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