Detroit cops probe drug operations; narcotics officer indicted

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — A team of Detroit police investigators seized records and computer data from three of the department's own facilities Thursday as part of an ongoing internal probe into allegations of corruption into the department's drug operations, chief James Craig said.

The investigation — the latest in a series of probes into the former Narcotics Section, which was closed in 2014 because of rampant corruption — kicked off about four months ago, after a large shipment of drugs that had been seized in Detroit was switched for another substance by the time it got to Chicago for a court hearing, Craig said.

Detroit police chief James Craig addresses the media, flanked by assistant chief David LeValley and police board chairwoman Lisa Carter.

In addition, a longtime narcotics officer, Michael Mosley, was indicted in federal court Thursday on charges related to allegations that he took a bribe from a drug dealer, who left the cash in the backyards of abandoned Detroit houses.

Craig said that indictment also played into Thursday's action.

"We are seizing everything. We'll leave no rock unturned. This started at 7 a.m., and is continuing as we speak," Craig said at 3 p.m. Thursday.

Detroit police chief James Craig addresses the media

Craig said he initiated the seizure of records and computer files because of concerns about “a residual effect” of corruption that he said has long been part of the narcotics operation, which the chief renamed the Major Violators Section five years ago.

Part of the corruption Craig referred to involved former drug cops David Hansberry, Bryan Watson and  Arthur Leavells, who were convicted in federal court of offenses that include ripping off drug dealers and stealing money and drugs that had been seized in raids.

Internal affairs officers seized material from the Narcotics Base on Dexter; a records facility on Mt. Elliott; and Public Safety Headquarters, Craig said.

“We’re getting historical records from the Mt. Elliott location, and newer records from headquarters,” Craig said. “We’re also taking forensic images from all 50 computers assigned to the Major Violators Section.

“This probe was initiated by DPD, but we have the FBI helping us,” Craig said. A team of about 21 Detroit officers was joined by two FBI agents and four civilian FBI employees in the action, the chief said.

“About four months ago, we got information from the DEA, who then told the FBI that a large seizure of drugs that had been tested as drugs while in Detroit, was switched when it got to Chicago for a federal hearing,” Craig said.

“Preliminarily, there’s no evidence showing any tampering of the drugs by DPD,” Craig said. “But it was switched for another substance, and that’s still being investigated.”

He said allegations made against Hansberry, Watson and other cops in a federal lawsuit also played a part in the ongoing investigation, which is the latest in a string of probes into the department’s narcotics operations.

Craig disbanded the drug unit in July 2014 because of what he said were systemic problems uncovered during an Internal Affairs investigation that included how drugs and evidence were handled. 

"We are taking the initiative to address all these issues," the chief said. "We are focused on making sure anyone who violates the rules is held accountable."

According to the federal indictment, Mosley, a 19-year police veteran, allegedly agreed to take a $15,000 cash bribe in exchange for not seeking criminal charges after he seized two kilograms of heroin, one kilogram of cocaine and six firearms.

"Officer Mosley agreed to the deal," a U.S. Department of Justice press release said. "On May 2, 2019, Officer Mosley collected $10,000 in cash, which the drug dealer had left for Mosley in the backyard of an abandoned house in Detroit. On May 23, Officer Mosley accepted another $5,000 in cash left for him at the abandoned house.

"In exchange, Officer Mosley gave the trafficker the original copy of the drug trafficker’s signed confession," the indictment said.

Mosley's attorney, Robert Morgan, declined to comment.

Each of the two bribery charges carries a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.

“Although the vast majority of police officers in Michigan are fully dedicated to protecting the public, sometimes there is an infrequent example of an officer driven by corruption and greed,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a written statement. “I am thankful to Detroit Chief of Police James Craig for his commitment to combating corruption.”

Detroit News Staff Writer Robert Snell contributed.

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN