Ex-narcotics officer claims racism, harassment in DPD
Detroit — A lawsuit filed by an African-American former Detroit police narcotics sergeant claiming racism and harassment by white superior officers is the latest in a series of problems in the troubled, disbanded drug unit, which is the target of an ongoing Internal Affairs investigation.
Sgt. Myron Weathers, a 19-year police veteran, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Wayne Circuit Court against the Detroit Police Department, Chief James Craig, Assistant Chief Steve Dolunt and Lt. Charles Flanagan.
In the suit, Weathers alleges that Flanagan, the former head of the narcotics unit, appointed to a Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force an "unqualified white female officer" who was "rumored to be having an inappropriate relationship" with Flanagan, who is white.
Weathers said in his lawsuit that in February, he filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission "claiming that he was retaliated against by his Caucasian superior for questioning the assignment of an unqualified white, female officer to (Flanagan's) crew," according to the 32-page lawsuit, which is seeking more than $25,000 in damages.
Flanagan, who is now in charge of the department's vice operations, filed his own EEOC complaint in May, claiming he was the victim of racial discrimination by black superior officers, and that he was subjected to a hostile work environment because he blew the whistle on alleged wrongdoing in the narcotics unit that he said happened before he took over the squad.
Flanagan told police officials that Weathers took for his personal use big-screen televisions, a tablet, and an Xbox video game system that had been confiscated from drug dealers; and that rocks of crack cocaine that hadn't been logged as evidence were found inside officers' desks. Flanagan's report in May launched an internal investigation.
Weathers insisted in his suit that he hadn't improperly used the confiscated equipment, and said he "repurposed" the televisions "for training purposes."
"Internal Affairs found no discrepancies or improprieties with regard to how this evidence had been handled," Weathers said in his suit. "Flanagan initiated the Internal Affairs investigation by falsely and maliciously accusing (me) of misappropriating the evidence."
Craig pointed out that the Internal Affairs investigation is ongoing, and that no final determination of innocence or guilt has been made.
"The longstanding practice of the way some evidence was handled was outside department policy, so that investigation continues," Craig said Wednesday.
Weathers went on to allege in his suit that drugs and other evidence found by members of Flanagan's crew had been mishandled.
"Internal Affairs ... conducted an audit of ... Flanagan's crews' working space and area," the suit said. "Approximately 200 pieces of property and evidence were removed for further investigation based upon a suspicion the evidence was handled improperly.
"Also, narcotics were discovered in a desk belonging to persons working for Defendant Flanagan, and some of those persons were ordered for immediate drug screening," the lawsuit said.
In July, Craig disbanded the Narcotics Section, and in its place created the Major Violators Section. Around the same time, Craig instituted a policy that required officers to be transferred from specialized units after three years, although they can request staying a fourth year. Craig said the move was to guard against complacency and corruption.
"In response to the investigation of the narcotics unit, a determination was made, based on best policing practices, that you have to put a limit on the duration of the tour of duty in highly sensitive assignments like narcotics or vice," Craig said. "You can't stay in these units for life.
"This was an effort to change the culture of the Narcotics Section, because the way evidence was being treated was outside department policy, and I'm told that's been a cultural thing for years," the chief said.
As part of the new policy, Weathers, who was in the narcotics unit for more than five years, was transferred. He claimed Dolunt, the assistant chief, transferred him to the 9th Precinct, which Weathers said "is historically and commonly viewed as the precinct that officers are assigned to as a form of punishment. Dolunt, a Caucasian, recommended (the) transfer."
When told about the suit Wednesday night, Flanagan said he hadn't seen it yet, but called it "sour grapes."
"Weathers is the target of an internal investigation that I initiated, so I guess this is his way of getting back at me," Flanagan said. "He made his own bed."