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Detroit police investigate sergeant for sexual assault

George Hunter
The Detroit News
Detroit police car

Detroit police are investigating a woman’s claims that a sergeant in the 11th Precinct sexually assaulted her,  although officials say she has not responded to multiple requests to interview her.

The allegation is the latest controversy involving the 11th Precinct, although Detroit Police James Craig pushed back against claims that the precinct is out of control. Last week, Craig suspended precinct Cmdr. Tim Leach and decommissioned him to the rank of lieutenant, after Leach allegedly failed to notify the department he’d used force on a man while working an unauthorized security detail in a Corktown bar.

During a press conference at police headquarters Wednesday, Craig said the department hours earlier sent two warrant requests in the Leach case to Wayne County prosecutors for review. The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office said in a news release it had received a warrant request and was reviewing it.

“I refute that,” Craig said in response to claims there are rampant problems in the 11th Precinct. “That’s a broad-brush (allegation) … Leach was suspended and de-appointed. This morning we submitted warrants for review at the prosecutor’s office. I refute any notion that the 11th Precinct is spiraling out of control.”

Regarding the sexual allegation, Craig said a woman originally filed a complaint with the Office of the Chief Investigator, alleging a sergeant at the 11th Precinct had sexually harassed her, Craig said Wednesday.

“On Feb. 15 she talked to a supervisor at the 11th Precinct about allegations of harassment, and the supervisor forwarded it to the Office of the Chief Investigator (which looks into noncriminal complaints against officers),” Craig said.

Craig said the next day the woman made an anonymous call to internal affairs officers, and made the more serious allegation that the sergeant had sexually assaulted her. The woman also said something during that conversation that caused the investigator to be concerned for her safety, Craig said.

“We were able to determine who it was because of caller ID,” he said. “Because of things she said, there was concern about her safety, so officers went to her house for a wellness check, and to try to interview her about the allegations.”

Craig said the woman talked to the officers from a second-story window, and while she had a brief conversation with them, she declined to sit down for a formal interview. 

Department officials made several more attempts to interview the woman, including sending her two certified letters and sending victim’s advocates to her house, but she repeatedly declined to talk, the chief said.

“We still want to interview her,” Craig said. “We treat all allegations seriously, but we have to talk to the complainant.”

Craig said the sergeant at the heart of the allegations will be interviewed, although he said he has not been disciplined. “You can’t suspend someone based on an allegation where the alleged victim refuses to be interviewed,” he said.

The chief said whether the woman decides to sit down for an interview or not, the investigation will move forward. He added investigators are looking into the whether the sergeant committed department policy violations that don’t rise to the level of criminal behavior. 

Another issue involving the 11th Precinct was a November drug raid in which officers from the 11th and 12th precincts were videoed scuffling with each other. Craig said he submitted three warrants to the prosecutor’s office in that case, “But no one wanted to prosecute it,” he said, adding an investigation into possible administrative violations connected to the raid should be completed in three to four weeks.