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Inkster police chief explains exit

George Hunter and Candice Williams
The Detroit News

The fallout continued Wednesday when Inkster's police chief resigned, saying she and the city were "not on the same page" following a video of an officer punching a motorist during a traffic stop and charges against that officer.

Yost

Police Chief Vicki Yost's resignation was effective immediately, said Inkster Mayor Hilliard Hampton.

Earlier Wednesday, a judge dismissed cocaine possession charges against Detroiter Floyd Dent, who said police planted drugs in his vehicle during his videotaped rough arrest Jan. 28 in the city, which sparked protests and claims of police brutality, and resulted in an investigation by Michigan State Police.

William Melendez was fired from the Police Department last week. On Monday, assault and misconduct charges were filed against him by the Wayne County prosecutor.

Yost said Wednesday night that she and city officials disagreed on how to run the department in the wake of the videotaped arrest.

"Today, there was a meeting that we weren't philosophically and fundamentally in step on how to heal the community and how to move the community forward," she said.

She wouldn't go into detail about the differences with city officials.

"There was a lot of pressure placed on me to provide information … that could have impact on the criminal investigation the MSP were conducting," she said. "... We weren't on the same page."

As a result, she gave the city 30 days' notice "to be professional and give them a transition" but the city opted for an immediate departure.

"I want to thank the Inkster community for their support and their patience,"she said. "It's a wonderful community and I wish them nothing but the best."

Yost said she would take the summer off to think about her future.

Following the resignation, the mayor and others described the need for stable leadership in the Police Department, which has seen two police chiefs leave in less than a year.

"It's never good to have turnover as quick as this," Hampton said. "You want to have leadership in place to work toward a goal. You have a void."

Yost was named interim chief nine months ago after former Chief Hilton Napoleon left in July amid city financial troubles, a reduced police force and rising crime. Hampton at the time said the chief's job "just became overwhelming."

Hampton said Wednesday he did not know Yost's reasons for leaving. City Manager Richard March chose to make her resignation effective immediately, Hampton said.

March did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

Floyd Dent speaks out against the Inkster police officer who beat him during a traffic stop.

Dent's attorney, Greg Rohl, said he was "ecstatic" about Yost's resignation. He criticized the department's handling of the Dent case and said that the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office wasn't alerted to the rough arrest until media released the videotape.

"I see it as another step in the right direction," Rohl said of Yost's departure. "Dent was amazed. He can't believe she resigned."

The city will begin the process of finding a new interim chief to replace Yost, Hampton said.

"This is a very stressful and trying time for the city of Inkster regarding this matter," Hampton said. "She came on board fully understanding the position was interim. It may have not been an intention of hers to be here a long time from the onset."

Longtime Inkster resident Aaron Simms, 37, said Wednesday the vacuum in the police department was troubling.

"I think it's poor leadership all the way around," Simms said. "Hiring folks that are not looking for permanent employment. ... When leadership changes so many times it's hard for people to adjust to leadership that comes in. Different people have different agendas.

"It's becoming a business instead of a duty, police officers being servants to the community," Simms added.

Inkster City Councilman Michael Canty declined to comment on Yost's resignation. "In her best interest I should reserve my comments at this time," he said.

Wednesday morning, Dent spoke about Melendez's arrest.

"Now it's his turn to get behind the bars," Dent said, flanked by his attorney outside Wayne Circuit Court. Judge David Groner had just dismissed charges of cocaine possession against Dent.

"I'd like to ask him, why did he beat me like that?" Dent asked. "Now he can feel the pain I felt."

Melendez has been charged with misconduct in office and assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder. The felony charges are punishable by five and 10 years in prison, respectively.

The incident was touched off on the evening of Jan. 28 when Dent was pulled over for a traffic stop.

A police video shows Dent, who didn't resist, being beaten and hit with a Taser by Melendez, who reported that he had found cocaine on Dent.

After the video was released, U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Detroit, called for a federal investigation, saying in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that the incident raised a "series of issues" worthy of review.

The video release also led to Melendez's firing by Inkster and Highland Park, where he had worked part time.

"It's been a long journey," Dent said. "It was the end of the world for me. I couldn't sleep and I aged 20 years."

During the brief hearing, Groner asked why Dent's vehicle was still being held by police.

"If it's been held for evidence and the case is dismissed, what's the point of keeping it?" Groner asked.

Rohl said the city of Inkster was "screwing with" his client by holding onto his vehicle.

"It's vindictive," Rohl said. "It's always been vindictive."

cwilliams@detroitnews.com

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