Highland Park sidelines police officer in taped beating

Charles E. Ramirez, Candice Williams, and Holly Fournier

Highland Park — A former Inkster police officer charged in the videotaped beating of a suspect in that city will no longer patrol in Highland Park either.

William Melendez, who had been a part-time officer in Highland Park, was charged Monday with misconduct and assault with intent to do great bodily harm in connection with the January arrest of Floyd Dent in Inkster.

Melendez was fired from the Inkster force last week, and Highland Park Chief Kevin Coney said Monday that Melendez would have no active role with his department pending the outcome of the criminal case against him.

"In effect, Mr. Melendez will not be working on the streets of Highland Park or in the capacity of a police officer on behalf of the city," Coney said in a statement. "This official statement is being provided to ebb any concerns that our citizens, residents or the general public may have in regards to Mr. Melendez working in the capacity of law enforcement for the city."

Coney also said Melendez has not worked as a police officer in Highland Park for some time.

The chief issued the statement after about two dozen protesters gathered Monday morning outside Highland Park's municipal building to call for the city to remove Melendez.

A leader of the demonstration, the Rev. Charles Williams II, said city officials had told him they would no longer employ Melendez as a part-time officer.

"He's gone," said Williams, state director of the National Action Network.

During the protest, Williams said, "Melendez needs to go now and he needs to be prosecuted."

"We don't believe he should be on the streets of Highland Park," Williams said. "There's no reason why anyone who would commit such an atrocious attack should be on the street."

Crystal Linton, executive director of the NAN's Inkster chapter, said she's outraged Melendez was able to work as a police officer in Highland Park after being fired in Inkster.

"I am appalled this officer still has a gun and a badge and is able to go to another predominantly minority city and exact his terrorism on citizens," she said. "We have enough problems dealing with the bad guys. What do we do when the good guys are terrorizing us?"

Williams praised Inkster's decision to dismiss Melendez.

"We feel the Inkster Police Department made the right step in firing William Melendez because of what happened to Mr. Floyd Dent," he said.

Melendez is identified in an Inkster police report as one of the officers who arrested 57-year-old Floyd Dent during a Jan. 28 traffic stop. Video showing the rough arrest sparked cries of aggressive policing and led to calls for disbanding the department.

Police said Dent disregarded stop signs and refused to pull over, then resisted arrest and threatened them. They said they found a bag of crack cocaine in his car.

Dent said the drugs were planted by Melendez and he was beaten, hit with a stun gun and put in a chokehold during the arrest.

Dent and his attorney say he was racially profiled and officers used excessive force.

Melendez has been accused of aggressive policing in the past, according to court records.

He is being sued with the Inkster Police Department and six other officers in federal court in connection with a 2011 arrest. According to the lawsuit, Melendez was among officers who jumped on Inkster resident Deshawn Acklin at a home and began to "choke him and beat him until he lost consciousness."

Acklin — who was taken to the hospital after the arrest — never was charged with a crime, according to the lawsuit, which Acklin filed in 2013.

The case alleges Melendez violated Acklin's constitutional rights and seeks more than $75,000 in damages.

It is among several cases naming Melendez in his role as police officer, according to court records. In addition to the pending federal lawsuit, Melendez was involved in multiple lawsuits as an officer with the Detroit Police Department, records show, including a case in which he was indicted and later acquitted. The cases cost Detroit taxpayers at least $1.2 million.

Renla Session, 59, of Detroit, was among the protestors at Highland Park's municipal building on Monday. She carried a sign that said "Stop using the black community as a dumping ground for garbage cops!"

She said she was glad to hear Melendez has been charged by the county prosecutor.

"I'm very happy about it," she said. "I'll be even happier if he's convicted."


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