Detroit civilian investigator under FBI probe, police say

George Hunter
The Detroit News
Detroit police chief James Craig discusses the investigation into a cop's allegedly racist Snapchat video

Detroit — A man who investigates alleged wrongdoing by Detroit police officers is himself the target of a probe by the FBI's Public Corruption Unit, law enforcement officials said.

The case involves a member of the Office of the Chief Investigator, the arm of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners that looks into non-criminal citizen complaints against city cops.

The civilian investigator claimed he interviewed a Detroit police officer after a citizen complained the cop had leveled a shotgun at him without cause — but the interview allegedly never happened, police and union officials said.

Police Chief James Craig said he asked an outside law enforcement agency to look into the allegations.

"When this came to my attention, I asked Michigan State Police to investigate, since it would be an obvious conflict of interest for our people to handle it," Craig said. "The MSP investigator who got the case works on a federal task force, so the FBI is now looking into it."

State police Lt. Mike Shaw said the case is being handled by the FBI's Public Corruption Unit. FBI spokeswoman Mara Schneider declined to comment.

Willie Bell, chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners, said the OCI investigator, a former Detroit police sergeant, has been placed on restricted duty and won't handle cases while awaiting the results of the probe.

"The investigation has been going on for three to four weeks," Bell said. "That's really all I can say; we'll just have to wait for the investigation to wrap up."

Detroit Police Officers Association president Craig Miller said the issue emerged a few weeks ago when a citizen alleged that a Detroit officer had unnecessarily pointed a shotgun at him while executing a search warrant.

The OCI investigator filled out a misconduct report against the officer, in which he claimed he'd interviewed the cop and found wrongdoing, Miller said. The investigator then forwarded the case to the police department's Disciplinary Section for a hearing, the union president said.

During the hearing, Miller said it was pointed out that the interview the investigator claimed he'd conducted with the accused cop never happened. The Disciplinary Section then contacted Internal Affairs, the union leader said.

The citizen's complaint against the police officer was dismissed, Miller said.

"All we ask is for our officers to be treated fairly," he said. "These actions by the Board of Police Commissioners go against the fundamental principles of fairness that we as Detroit police officers strive for on a daily basis."

The police board supervises the Office of the Chief Investigator, which is staffed by civilians, many of them ex-cops. The investigators look into citizen complaints about officers' demeanor, procedure and other non-criminal allegations.

If the OCI investigator determines the officer broke the law, the case is forwarded to the police department's Professional Standards Section, or internal affairs. Findings of non-criminal wrongdoing are forwarded to the Discipline Section for hearings.
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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN