Metropark police officer on leave amid probe of alleged anti-Arab remarks
A Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority police officer is under investigation amid allegations he made discriminatory remarks to an Arab-American family, officials said.
The investigation comes after two Metro Detroit advocacy groups called on the authority to discipline the officer following online video footage purported to show the aftermath of the comments on Monday at Lake Erie Metropark in Brownstown Township.
Someone was recorded shouting to alert the family that the officer had allegedly said “go back to where you came from” as they left, according to the brief clip posted Wednesday on the Dearborn Area Community Members Facebook page.
The uniformed officer, sitting in a white SUV, was heard saying: “Yes, I did. Illinois.”
He repeated “Illinois” several times when a bystander questioned him. Another person on the scene said: “You said that? Really?”
(Warning: Video contains graphic language)
In a letter to Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority Police Chief Michael Reese on Friday, the American Arab Civil Rights League said the conduct violated the department’s mission and insulted the visitors.
“As an officer serving a region with a large population of Arab Americans, the officer’s comments erode public trust in the leadership, staff, and administration of the Huron-Clinton Metropark Police,” the group said. “While we stand for the protection of all citizens’ rights to free speech, such hateful racist comments by a public servant towards the Arab community is absolutely intolerable.”
Reached Friday, Reese said the officer, who has not been named, had been placed on administrative leave earlier in the day.
The officer will remain on leave until an internal investigation is completed, the chief said.
“We take whatever complaints that are made against our officers seriously,” Reese told The Detroit News. “It’s important our visitors feel safe and enjoy their experience.”
No other complaints about discriminatory comments had been made against the officer, a retired policeman who has worked with the authority for about two years, the chief added.
In a statement Friday, Dawud Walid, executive director for the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called on Reese’s department to conclude its probe "as quickly as possible and take appropriate disciplinary action based on the results of that investigation."
"The officer’s excuse for his remarks rings hollow given the spike in anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment we have seen nationwide prompted by Donald Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric and policies," Walid said.