Letter: Racism exists at Detroit Police Dept.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig just doesn’t get it. He doesn’t get racism exists in his department. He doesn’t get the irony of the whole situation — systemic racism flourishing on the watch of a black executive, in a mostly black department in a majority black city. The reality is all-white task forces exist on his watch. The reality is complaints from officers about harassment and discrimination flourish on his watch.

Recently, Craig held a press conference to discuss a report from a committee he authorized to look at racial issues in the Detroit Police Department. The committee called CORE (Committee on Race and Equality), was charged with the responsibility of reporting and making recommendations on issues within the ranks of the Detroit Police Department involving concerns of inequality as it relates to race, gender and sexual orientation. Co-chaired by myself and Officer Joe Weekley, we began work last year and spent eight months visiting precincts and interviewing officers about their concerns. The committee met biweekly until August of 2016, when the work was complete and the findings were given to Craig and shared with his team of executives at a two-day retreat that month.

Within the last few days that report became the center of controversy when the Coalition Against Police Brutality began calling for its release after Detroit Police Officer Daniel Wolff made some controversial statements on Facebook calling Detroit residents trash. He stated Detroit cops have “to police the garbage,” but don’t have to “live in the garbage.” Craig eventually released a redacted copy of the report to the media. This came following a series of Freedom of Information Act requests. Craig followed that move with his own press conference where he is now attacking his own report, calling it rumor and innuendo. Craig said the police department didn’t have a growing racial problem as the report had outlined. But it was just last February when he said he was aware of racial problems; that’s why he formed the committee.

In what seemed to be an effort to shield himself from criticism Craig issued a statement that indicated one of the co-chairs, “acted on his own as a rogue officer without the “knowledge or permission of the committee to conduct a racial assessment.” He was referring to me.

As the lead chair on the report, I wrote the document with the other committee members present. The committee was set up by Craig because he said officers came to him to report racial problems.

The report outlined complaints we received of elite units that were predominately white, and others that were all white that black officers could not join.

Craig has seemingly forgotten some very important points, the main one being he authorized the committee after officers complained to him that racial problems existed. Now he’s publicly denying there is a racial problem and he’s denying knowledge of the report or acceptance of its findings.

What does that say to his officers?

John K. Bennett

Retired Detroit police officer