Southfield police chief defends officers against allegations of assault

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Southfield — The city's police chief Monday defended his department from allegations three officers assaulted a woman and caused her to have a miscarriage.

Southfield Police Chief Elvin Barren said the woman's attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, accuses his officers being racist and knowingly using an electric stun gun on her while she was pregnant.

"When you look at the narrative that was suggested, that we knowingly would Tase a pregnant woman, that is appalling to me,” Barren said during a Monday news conference held to discuss a lawsuit filed by the woman, 38-year-old Crystal White, last Friday in federal court.

“It’s a gross negligence and it lends on criminality," he said. "It is also alarming to me that it was suggested that this police department would have treated her differently if she was a white woman from an affluent community.

"We responded because the family asked us to help. The family outlined concerns of mental status, of aggressive behavior and things that were going on inside the location.”

Barren was responding to comments Feiger made to WXYZ-TV (Channel 7). He said officers would have treated the woman differently if she had been white and from Bloomfield Hills.

"When you suggest that we would base our decisions and how we would interact with members of this community on race, that's also appalling to me," Barren said. "I'm an African American police chief. I don't appreciate the allegations of excessive force and racism."

The police chief also showed the media photos and video taken by police cameras. "She has some injuries, I've shown you what those injuries were," he said. 

On Friday, White filed the lawsuit against the Southfield Police Department, seeking at least $75,000 in damages.

MoreLawsuit: Woman alleges Southfield police assaulted her, caused miscarriage

According to the suit, three officers responded to a domestic dispute at the home of Crystal White’s mother on Jan. 9. 

Crystal White's sister had called 911 while White argued with relatives. White's young daughter was also at the scene, the filing said.

The suit alleges officers arrived as White was packing belongings in her car; as they approached, one immediately accused her "… of being armed,” according to the suit.

The woman, who was 12 weeks pregnant, claims that when she exposed her waistband to show she was unarmed, an officer “lunged forward and punched” her in the face. Another officer then deployed his taser and struck her in the abdomen. She was then taken into custody and handcuffed.

Barren said White advanced on officers, even after they performed de-escalation techniques.

He also said she shoved one of the officers, who responded by punching her. That officer disengaged and the other officers continued efforts to place her into custody. Officers then used a stun gun to subdue her, Barren said.

White's lawsuit alleges her unborn baby died Feb. 22, and the police encounter left the woman with cuts, bruises as well as multiple loose and broken teeth.

Officers weren't aware the woman was pregnant until she was in the back seat of a scout car and told them, the chief said.

Barren said he couldn't discuss much more about the suit because it is pending litigation. "We'll let this play out in court and let the facts come out in court."

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez