Activists protest police Taser incidents in Westland

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Westland — A group of civil rights activists Friday protested in front of Westland Police headquarters after two recent incidents in which officers used their Tasers on black men who claim the force was excessive.

Angela Martin from attorney Gregory Rohl's office (left), and Jerry Shingles (right), who said police used their Taser on him for no reason, protest Friday in front of Westland Police headquarters.

Members of the National Action Network insist Westland police have shown a pattern of targeting African Americans. Westland Police Chief Jeff Jedrusik said he's working with the community to address their concerns.

The most recent police action on Aug. 17 made national headlines after an officer zapped Ray Brown as he held his 2-month-old son.

Although police officials said the use of force was justified because Brown failed to comply with police commands, the officer was suspended for 30 days, and Jedrusik said using the stun gun on Brown while he held an infant was "questionable."

The earlier incident happened June 22, when an officer used his Taser on Jerry Shingles while arresting him for unpaid traffic tickets.

"Nobody should have this happen to them," Shingles said during Friday's rally, which was attended by about 50 people. "The cops came to my door at about 2:30 in the morning while I was asleep with my (5-year-old) daughter."

Shingles said the officers told him they were looking for his father. They then asked his name, and whether he had any warrants for his arrest. Shingles said he told the cops he had outstanding traffic warrants from Detroit and Westland.

"They started arresting me," he said. "Then, 8-9 cops were restraining me and yelling 'stop resisting.' My hands were behind my back; I wasn't resisting. Then they Tased me. It was a ridiculous thing that happened on my front porch. It was traumatizing."

Crystal Linton, president of the Western Wayne National Action Network chapter, said Shingles was stunned with the Taser "because he's a large black man. He didn't let the police into his house, which is his constitutional right, and so they Tased him."

Angela Martin, an employee of attorney Gregory Rohl, who is representing both men, said the two incidents are part of a pattern.

"There's a Taser problem in the city of Westland," Martin said. "This is just how they do things."

Jedrusik said in a written statement he wants to hear the group's concerns.

"As of late there has been some negative PR circulating around two Westland Police Department arrests," he said. "I know that the best solution is communication and to work together to build upon community trust and transparency.

"I have recently met in small groups with the Wayne County NAACP, I have met with the Inkster Ministerial Alliance and I have also scheduled a meeting with the Inkster National Action Network," the chief said. "These recent meetings have been a great success. I plan to continue with future meetings together on a regular basis in order to build friendship and trust."

Martin released video footage of both confrontations, which were recorded by police dash-cam or body-worn cameras.

Another video, shot at the Westland police station, shows officers talking to Shingles about why they stunned him.

"I have got into plenty of situations with guys a lot smaller then you that take three, four, five guys," one officer said. "I’m not taking the chance, when we can handle it with a quick Taser, a quick wrestling match and we hit the ground."

Shingles replied: "That's excessive."

"Did anyone punch you?" the officer asked. "Punch you in the face; did anyone beat you while you were down?"

"No," Shingles said.

"Once it was done it was done right?" the officer asked. "It sucks on your part, I'll give you that."

Shingles responded: "It was horrible."

Shingles said he was charged with resisting arrest, and has a pretrial hearing scheduled for Oct. 11.

Another protest march is scheduled for 11 a.m. Oct. 5 beginning at Westland City Hall, and ending at police headquarters.
(313) 222-2134
Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN