Craig: Officer reassigned after social media post

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
Detroit Police Chief James Craig holds a press conference Thursday at Detroit Police Headquarters regarding an officer who has been removed from the department.

Detroit — A Detroit police officer has been reassigned while the department investigates racially-charged comments made during a traffic stop and posted to the officer's social media this week.

The alleged incident happened during a traffic stop near Joy Road and Stout Street on the city's west side Tuesday night, police said. 

Officer Gary Steele pulled over Ariel Moore, 23, for an expired registration on her license plate and seized her vehicle. He told Moore to exit the vehicle and that it would be towed. Moore walked about a block to her home in below freezing weather.

Video posted to Steele's Snapchat obtained by WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) shows Moore walking home as he says "priceless" and "bye Felicia" with caption tags that read, "What black girl magic looks like," and "celebrating Black History Month."

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said the officer had the lawful right to make the stop and tow her vehicle, but the comments made him angry.

“I’m angry because this was a racially insensitive post,” Craig said during a press conference Thursday. “...At that point, the officer makes the bad decision to make a Snapchat post saying 'Bye Felicia' and that’s derogatory and that’s not what we expect of our police officers. On top of that, she’s walking a very cold night, it’s dark and now in my view, she’s in harms way even if she only lived a block away.”

During the investigation, Craig said they saw through the officer’s body camera that he offered her a ride home and she declined. Craig said he removed Steele's corporal rank for the incident. 

Steele, who has been with the department for 18 years and works to train other officers, has a troubling history with the department.

In 2008, Steele was charged with physically attacking his ex-girlfriend and firing a gun near her head in Canton. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charged, served probation and was able to remain on the police force.

"His departmental history predates my appointment," Craig said. "There would have been a different outcome had I been a chief in those years, but I can’t go back and undo what’s already been done. But his history is troubling… There’s a pattern and I’m concerned."

His partner from the department's sixth precinct was also in the vehicle recorded saying "walk of shame." Craig said the partner is also being investigated. 

This isn't the first officer to post insensitive content to social media. In September, former officer Sean Bostwick, 27, was terminated for posting a Snapchat photo of himself in uniform with the caption "another night to Rangel (sic) up these zoo animals."

“This incident is absolutely not reflective of this police department,” Craig said. “We had someone else post an inappropriate comment on social media some months back. He was a new officer and is no longer a Detroit police officer."

Craig said he has reached out to Moore and her mother to apologize for the incident and the department is paying to get her vehicle out of the tow yard.

"...I’m not troubled, not disappointed, I’m angry," Craig said. "And then to make the reference to Black History Month is even more problematic in a city that’s 82 percent African-American…Do know this officer will be held accountable for his actions."
Twitter: @SarahRahal_