Report shows Detroit councilman’s ‘shock’ over details of arrest

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — Responding to concerns over an incapacitated driver on the roadway, police discovered a Detroit city councilman asleep at a traffic light in his running city-issued car and knocked on the window to wake him.

When the attempts failed, officers opened the door, turned off the ignition and shook first-term councilman Scott Benson by the shoulder until he eventually became alert.

Benson had alcohol on his breath, his eyes were glassy and bloodshot, and, at times, his speech was slurred, according to a police report detailing the June 29 interaction at a traffic signal on the southbound Southfield service drive near Eight Mile. The Southfield Police Department report was obtained this week by The Detroit News under the Freedom of Information Act.

Officers say Benson advised them he was not injured or sick and had just left an ombudsman meeting. He admitted to officers that he’d had one vodka drink before driving — and was “shocked” to learn he’d not been pulled over by police but had been found sleeping behind the wheel of the 2008 Ford Crown Victoria.

City Ombudsman Durene Brown said Friday she did not attend, nor was she aware of, any ombudsman meeting anywhere on that day.

New details of the councilman’s arrest come in advance of a Sept. 25 pretrial hearing in 46th District Court on misdemeanor allegations of Benson being “super drunk” and having open intoxicants in a motor vehicle.

“Benson stated that he knew that he was ‘not in Detroit,’” the police report reads, adding the councilman told Southfield officers that he believed he’d been pulled over “to make sure he wasn’t doing something wrong in the city.”

The officer then advised Benson that he did not stop him, but rather found him asleep behind the wheel, according to the report.

“Benson seemed shocked that he was asleep in traffic ... ,” the report says.

The councilman went on to perform poorly on field sobriety tests conducted at the scene and refused to submit to an alcohol breath test, police wrote.

Police say a court-ordered search warrant for a blood sample revealed a blood-alcohol level of .244 — more than three times the state’s legal limit of .08. An open bottle of whiskey in a brown paper bag was found underneath the front passenger seat.

Benson was arraigned last month on the charges levied by the Southfield City Attorney's Office. If convicted, he could face jail time, license restrictions and/or fines.

Benson, who was elected in November, issued a statement shortly after the incident, apologizing “for this distraction” and stressed he was looking forward to “continuing my work to move Detroit forward in a positive direction.”

His attorney could not be immediately reached Friday.

The super drunk charge carries a penalty of up to 180 days in jail, a fine of up to $700 and/or up to 360 hours of community service. The charge could also result in a license suspension for up to one year, six points and mandatory completion of an alcohol treatment program.

The incident prompted the city to take possession of Benson’s city car pending the outcome of the police investigation.