Detroit Police Department hires new diversity, equity and inclusion manager

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

The Detroit Police Department has hired a new diversity, equity and inclusion executive manager, city officials announced Friday.

Mary Engelman, who previously was deputy director and interim director at the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, is "tasked with creating a more inclusive environment, internally and externally, by improving diversity, equity and inclusion from the Office of the Chief to patrol officers through investments in the department, community events and more," police said in a statement.

Police Chief James White, who formerly led the civil rights department, called Engelman's selection "a game-changer for our community" and DPD.

“I’m a firm believer that we become better with a commitment to equal opportunity for all," he said. "We are proud to welcome Mary to our team."

Mary Engelman has been named the diversity, equity and inclusion executive manager for the Detroit Police Department.

Engelman, who has a bachelor’s degree in English from Evangel University in Missouri and speaks multiple languages, has an extensive background in leadership, government affairs and community outreach as well as operations and budget management, according to the release.

Her professional affiliations include serving with the Michigan Women’s Commission, the Michigan Poverty Task Force and the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities committee, the police department said.

“I’m grateful for this amazing opportunity to help make the Detroit Police Department leaders in diversity, equity and inclusion," she said. "With Chief White’s leadership and support in this area, the department will continue its standard of 21st century policing for Detroiters."

The city in a release did not disclose Engelman's salary.

Since taking over as chief in 2021, White has vowed to implement changes in a department that has faced controversy and challenges involving race in recent years.

It is among the departments in Metro Detroit and across the country that have struggled to recruit minority officers amid changing attitudes toward law enforcement.

Meanwhile, in 2017, the city's then-new Committee on Race and Equality created to improve relations released a report that found a “growing racial problem" in the department. Citing Black officers complaining of discrimination from White superiors and retaliation when bias issues were raised, the analysis also mentioned that despite DPD being majority Black, some units were mainly staffed by White male officers.

A Black officer later sued his colleagues, saying the department discriminated and retaliated against him following an off-duty encounter. In 2019, a White officer was placed on restricted duty amid an internal probe into his alleged use of a racial slur.

The same year, two White officers in the 6th Precinct were fired after posting a Snapchat video on which they were heard using derogatory language toward a Black woman.

In the wake of the incident, a White police captain retired and another was demoted and removed. Meanwhile, an audit uncovered a "racially tone deaf" culture at the precinct, then-chief James Craig said at the time.

Detroit Police Chief James White, who formerly led the civil rights department, called Mary Engelman's hiring as the department's new diversity, equity and inclusion executive manager is "a game-changer for our community" and the department.

The demoted former captain, Gary Sroka, eventually sued the department, claiming he was treated more severely than Black commanders who were not demoted. 

This week, the woman in the Snapchat video from 2019 also sued the city and the two fired officers, Gary Steele and Michael Garrison. The suit claims they acted "willfully, maliciously, in bad faith and in reckless disregard of federally protected rights," while the city failed to adequately train them.