Conyers seeks federal investigation of Inkster cops

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. wants a federal investigation into the arrest and beating of a Detroit man by Inkster police in late January.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday, the Detroit Democrat and ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee said the incident involving Floyd Dent, an unarmed black man, raised a "series of issues" worthy of review by the Department of Justice.

"Because it arises from a traffic stop, the Dent incident has touched a nerve throughout the Detroit metro area, in a community where brutality within the police department has been alleged and widely reported in the news media," wrote Conyers, whose district includes Inkster — a majority-black suburb of Detroit.

The current longest-serving member of Congress said he appreciates ongoing investigations into the incident by state and local authorities but "given the history of the concerns involving the officers involved in the arrest, as well as the Inkster Police Department, direct federal review is warranted in this case."

Conyers' letter comes on the heels of Friday's march in Detroit in support of Dent, 57, who also participated in the demonstration down Michigan Avenue to the police department. Protesters chanted, "Hey, hey, hey, ho! Police brutality has to go!"

Conyers' letter to Holder summarized the violent scene of Dent's Jan. 28 arrest, as caught on video by a dashboard camera. In the footage, Dent is repeatedly struck in the head by officers, placed in a chokehold, and immobilized with a stun gun.

Police say Dent failed to observe stop signs, wouldn't pull over, resisted arrest and threatened officers — which he denies. Dent has said police targeted him because he's black.

Dent, an autoworker for Ford Motor Co., pleaded not guilty in Wayne County Circuit Court this week to a drug possession charge related to the traffic stop on South River Park near Inkster Road.

Dent's lawyer, Greg Rohl, has also called for a federal investigation of the case. He says police planted the drugs.

Conyers said he would appreciate the Department of Justice providing technical and other assistance to state and local officials' inquiry into Dent's treatment by police.

The congressman quoted New York Times' columnist Charles Blow highlighting a survey that found 84 percent of blacks and 33 percent of whites believe police are more likely to use deadly force against blacks. Videos like Dent's "further that perception, especially among African Americans," Blow said.

A spokeswoman for Conyers said he discussed the Inkster case among other law-enforcement matters in a Wednesday meeting hosted by the Detroit chapter of the NAACP with Vanita Gupta, the Justice Department's acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.

Dena W. Iverson, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said Friday the agency is reviewing Conyers' request and monitoring the Inkster investigation being conducted by Michigan State Police.

mburke@detroitnews.com

(202) 657-7644