Group seeks firing of Royal Oak officer who stopped black man

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality is calling for the firing of a Royal Oak officer criticized over his response to a 911 call about an African-American man outside a restaurant.

Michael Pilcher, an officer who was still on probation with the department, was called outside the Inn Season Cafe on Aug. 13 after a woman complained that the man, Devin Myers, had been "just staring at me" and circling her car, according to the 911 tape the Police Department released last week.

Royal Oak Police Department

Police dash cam audio and a viral Facebook video that a passerby recorded both captured Myers objecting to being stopped and questioned. He said he had been seeking a parking spot and did not harass the woman.

“The situation in which Mr. Myers found himself — an African-American man accused of ‘suspicious behavior’ by a Caucasian woman as he merely attempted to have a meal at a local restaurant — is all too familiar," said Kenneth Reed, spokesman for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, in a statement Wednesday.

"For Probationary Officer Pilcher to even give credence to her alarmist call by demanding Myers' identification and holding him at all is worthy of his dismissal. He failed his probation, and all law enforcement departments must have zero tolerance for this kind of behavior. If we allow such a culture to persist, we continue to feed the beast of systemic and institutional racism that has continuously fought against any kind of equal protection of citizens’ rights.”

Royal Oak police and city officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night. 

Last week, police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue apologized to Myers and said Pilcher, who would receive additional training, had no right to demand Myers' identification and should have allowed him to leave after explaining why he had been stopped.

"What would have been a two-minute encounter was dragged out because of that," the chief told The Detroit News.

Myers was detained for about 19 minutes.

O'Donohue also said another officer who responded to the scene had been disciplined.

In a letter to O'Donohue's team and city officials Wednesday, the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality said Pilcher violated Myers' constitutional rights and the incident "calls to mind a long history of African American males being falsely accused by white women of suspicious or inappropriate sexual behavior, the most egregious being the tragic story of Emmett Till, who was lynched for allegedly ‘whistling’ at a Caucasian woman in Mississippi."

The coalition also asks that city officials release information on the nature and frequency of additional police training, documented incidents of police misconduct in the past 24 months and the racial/ethnic makeup of the department.

"We are requesting this information as part of our mission as a citizen organization exercising our due diligence to document police actions and craft appropriate citizen responses based on fundamental constitutional principles," the letter said.

The group's request comes after state Attorney General Dana Nessel on Friday directed the Civil Rights Division of her department to investigate the Royal Oak police response to the incident.

"If ever there are concerns that the civil rights of Michigan residents have been violated, our office stands ready to investigate and pursue such matters," Nessel said in a statement.