Wayne County prosecutor to release list of untruthful cops

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy plans to regularly release to the public the names of police officers who are unable to testify in court cases because they were found guilty of being untruthful.

The first list of names is expected to be released later this week, and Worthy said Wednesday she will release updated lists quarterly to allow the public to identify untruthful officers in Wayne County's 43 police departments and Sheriff's Office.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy

Worthy's decision comes amid demands for more police transparency in the wake of the May 25 choking death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, which has sparked demonstrations and calls for law enforcement reforms in cities across the country. 

Cops who have been found guilty of lying are called "Giglio-impaired" after Giglio v. United States, a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court granted a man a new trial because prosecutors didn't inform the defense about a deal they'd negotiated with a witness not to prosecute him in exchange for his testimony.

Prosecutors must inform defense attorneys if any officers involved in their cases have truthfulness issues on their records. Prosecutors are reluctant to use such officers as witnesses because it's easy for defense attorneys to impeach their credibility.

Some police officials say they have concerns about releasing officers' names on lists that might not tell the full story, which they say could unfairly taint honest cops.

The current Wayne County list, which was obtained by The Detroit News, contains the names of 35 officers, 27 of them Detroit police, although many no longer work in law enforcement, and eight of the former Detroit cops on the list are currently in prison.

The list contains the names of officers who were convicted of criminal violations, as well as in-house departmental violations involving untruthfulness, assistant prosecutor Maria Miller said.

All the names — even those who are no longer cops or who are in prison — will remain on Wayne County's list, and any new cases where officers were found to be untruthful will be added to subsequent lists. 

In October, Worthy asked county police departments to submit the names of officers who'd been found guilty of "such offenses involving theft, dishonesty, fraud, false statement, bias and bribery," she said in a written statement.

"These are crimes that can be considered by fact finders in a trial when credibility is being assessed," Worthy said. 

“Because trials will begin again mid-August and September (after being halted because of the coronavirus emergency), we thought it was important to send (the list) out to our prosecutors and defense attorneys," Worthy said.

"We are taking the additional step of releasing the list to the public, because in an era of criminal justice reform, it just makes sense," Worthy said.

Worthy said she expects to send out an updated list in September.

The Detroit News last year sent a Freedom of Information request to Detroit officials, seeking the number of Detroit police officers on the Giglio list. Detroit FOIA coordinator Jack Dietrich responded: "There are currently 74 DPD officers who have been found to have been untruthful. 

"However, 20 of those instances cannot be confirmed as discipline records were destroyed," Dietrich wrote. "Therefore, at this time DPD can only affirmatively state that 54 officers have been found to have been untruthful."

The number of Giglio-impaired officers released by Detroit last year is larger than the prosecutor's current list because Detroit's list included cops who had minor issues on their records, such as time discrepancies on log sheets.

The prosecutor's list does not contain officers involved in those minor cases, Miller said.

Craig said Wednesday he supported Worthy releasing the list.

Detroit police chief James Craig

"I've always welcomed transparency," Craig said. "Under this administration, if a police officer is found guilty of making a false statement, that's a termination case. This is a position I've taken for a while now.

"I just had a conversation with a group of activists a few days ago, and they asked me about the Giglio issue. I told them: I can't undo a decision that was made before I got here; if an officer was found guilty of untruthfulness and was only suspended, contractually, I can't go back and fire them.

"There have been instances where I've modified the work assignments of officers with truthfulness issues," Craig added. "You can't have them doing reports because they'll be challenged. You can't have them making arrests because they'll be challenged."

Craig said Wednesday he wasn't sure how many current officers are on the prosecutor's list.

Phone calls to the Oakland and Macomb county prosecutor's offices Wednesday were not returned.

Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police director Robert Stevenson said he has some concerns with how Giglio lists are compiled.

"The problem is, it's totally arbitrary by the prosecutors as to who ends up on the list, and there's no review or appeal process," said Stevenson, formerly Livonia's police chief. "If a prosecutor decides someone is on the list, they're on the list."

Lansing police chief Daryl Green insists he was unfairly added to an Ingham County list of untruthful cops because of an incident 20 years ago.

"I assisted in helping medical personnel hold a patient on a gurney," Green said in an email Wednesday. "From what I recall, the patient complained to the Office of Internal Affairs. During the course of the investigation there was a disagreement of whether or not force was used as then defined by the department.

"If force was used, I was required to complete a use of force form. However, subsequently, I learned that holding ... down a person on a gurney at the request of medical personnel was defined as force, and I should have filled out the form.

"At the close of the interview, the supervisor argued that my previous statement was not truthful. However, in reality it was a disagreement on the definition of use of force when I held him on the gurney," Green said. "Importantly, there were no injuries or excessive force findings. The finding was related to me not filling out a use of force form."

Green said he suspected his supervisor ruled against him because at the time, he and other minority police officers were vocal about the environment within the Lansing Police Department.

Lansing police chief Daryl Green

"This illegitimate report to the prosecutor may be related to the racial issues at the time," said Green, who is African American. "I am happy to say that those racist issues no longer exist and have not for quite some time."

Green said he brought up a "list of concerns" about the list to Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon.

Siemon replied in an email: "It should be clarified that we don’t put anyone on the list. Each of those names were submitted by their respective police chiefs based on any criteria that they believed applied under the Brady and Giglio cases. We then compiled the list from names submitted and update the list whenever a new name is submitted to us. 

"I believe the list was compiled in good faith and with a desire to be inclusive, but I know nothing about how individual departments determined someone should be on the list or what process they followed with the involved officers," Siemon said.

"Chief Green is in the best position to describe his and LPD’s situation. I do recall that he did not know that he was on the list until I told him some time in 2019 ... so, how this process occurred in 2014 and what any police agency or our office did at that time, I have no direct information," Siemon said.

Sometimes, officers who are under investigation for lying or other departmental violations will resign during the probe, freeing them to be hired by other police departments. 

An example is William Melendez, who left DPD while under investigation for several alleged offenses. He was later hired by Highland Park and Inkster, where in 2015 he pulled over motorist Floyd Dent and punched him several times.

Craig said he put a policy in place to guard against that.

"If you make a decision to resign while you're under investigation, we can't administer discipline," Craig said. "But what I can do is make a note on their file that they retired under charges.

"That way, if that officer were to apply to another police department, they would know that the officer didn't just retire, but they retired under charges, and it would then be up to that hiring agency if they wanted to do a deeper background check."

Stevenson said while he welcomes transparency, not all officers on Giglio lists are equal.

"I think each case should be evaluated on its own merits," Stevenson said. "I have mixed feelings about releasing officers' names because the circumstances are varied, and I'm concerned we're painting people with the same brush."