MIOSHA proposes $8K fine for Wayne County over corporal's death inside jail

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed $8,000 in fines for the Wayne County Sheriff's Office in connection with the September 2020 death of Cpl. Bryant Searcy, according to documents obtained by The Detroit News. 

The case was flagged for the state by the Wayne County Deputy Sheriff's Association, said union President Reginald Crawford.

The agency is proposing a $7,000 fine for a "serious" violation and a $1,000 fine for an "other-than-serious" violation.

"These fine amounts are not uncommon for the corresponding violations," said Jason Moon, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, which runs MIOSHA.

A $7,000 fine is the maximum penalty for a serious violation, the state said.

Moon said that because the sheriff's office still has appeal rights, MIOSHA can't comment further.

Cpl. Bryant Searcy

Searcy was on the second half of a double shift when he and his partner split up a floor to do lock-up, Crawford said. 

At one single-cell unit, he closed a door he thought to be locked and walked on. It wasn't. Searcy, 50, was choked and beaten an inmate, officials said at the time. That inmate, Deandre Williams, 28, is charged with first-degree murder in Searcy's death. He was moved to the Oakland County Jail as he awaits trial. Williams is due for a competency hearing on Aug. 27 before Wayne Circuit Court Judge Kevin Cox.

"On September 2, 2020, the employer did not ensure that the practice of performing evening lockdown rounds with a partner, in accordance with established policies, was followed," reads the MIOSHA citation on the "serious" violation. "An employee conducting the evening lockdown rounds alone died due to injuries caused from a physical assault by an inmate that has escaped their cell."

September:Details emerge of how sheriff's deputy was fatally attacked in Detroit

Deandre Williams

Robert Dunlap, chief of courts and jails for the sheriff's office, questioned the thoroughness of the state's investigation and said all of the proposed solutions were in place during the attack.

"We did have working cameras that documented the attack," Dunlap said. "There were partners doing rounds. No one was working alone that night."

Before the attack, Dunlap said, a commander at the jail had obtained signatures attesting to recent retraining on the need to partner up during lockdown rounds.

The proposed $1,000 fine is for failure to log a workplace death, the citation said.

Dunlap disputes that.

"It was reported that night," he said. 

Along with the proposed fine, the state set a July 15 deadline for Wayne County to remedy the problem.

It offered four solutions: retrain employees to follow procedure and do lockdown rounds with a partner; update surveillance equipment and make sure it works; audit the workplace to make sure the partner system is being followed; and implement safeguards that would require two people to successfully conduct lockdown rounds.

"This is about the health and safety of our members," said Crawford, the union president. 

Crawford says that the chronic short staffing at the jail creates security breaches. Two deputies were assaulted at work recently, he said, and there have been several instances where inmates at the Division 1 jail were caught lifting items into the jail from street level through broken windows.

A sign in front of the Wayne County Jail - Division 3 William Dickerson Facility in Hamtramck.

In September 1991, Sgt. William Dickerson was killed at the Division 1 jail with a gun smuggled in by inmate Darren Paige, who'd been sentenced to life in prison the day prior, police said.

The sheriff's office can appeal the citations or can have the penalty lowered by half by agreeing to the changes MIOSHA has asked for and providing proof they have been made.

jdickson@detroitnews.com