Bankole: Some of Detroit's cops have history of not telling the truth
Beneath the national push for accountability in policing lies the glaring need for transparency and honesty among the men and women who took an oath to protect and serve the public. Public confidence in the police institution erodes when departments have a culture of mistrust and lack of credibility among some members of their force.
More importantly, those dishonest officers become a liability during any prosecution because they cannot be trusted to give truthful testimony, and will instantly fail what is known as the Giglio/Brady test, drawn from two landmark Supreme Court cases that underscore the need for prosecutors to disclose any evidence that may cast substantial doubt on the truthfulness of police officers' witness testimony.
On Tuesday, I asked the Office of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy for a list of all officers in the Detroit Police Department with very questionable backgrounds who would not be allowed to testify in any court of competent jurisdiction. Last year Detroit’s top cop, James Craig, revealed that there were at least 54 officers on the force who have a problem with the truth and could no longer be relied upon by prosecutors.
Within hours of my request, I received the Giglio/Brady list of officers from all police agencies across the county with testimonial credibility issues. Of the 35 law enforcement personnel who could taint court cases, 27 are from Detroit with crimes ranging from theft and dishonesty, fraudulent activity, bribery, false statement, obstruction of justice to federal convictions. According to the prosecutor’s office, the current list includes some of the 54 officers that Craig previously talked about.
Here is the Giglio/Brady list of the officers from all police jurisdictions in the county:
The list is deeply troubling and disgraceful. It raises a number of serious questions for both Craig and his boss, Mayor Mike Duggan, about the integrity and ethics of policing in the era of the Black Lives Matter movement. At a time when Black people are demanding an end to police brutality after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, and after the killing of Hakim Littleton by Detroit police last Friday after he shot at officers, those who are charged with the responsibility of protecting Detroiters must be able to do so with honor. Their word must mean something in court.
But according to the list I requested from prosecutors, it does not.
“Last October, we contacted all local police chiefs, representatives from the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office and State Police. We asked for a list of their current and former officers that have committed offenses spelled out in the Giglio case — such offenses involving theft, dishonesty, fraud, false statement, bias and bribery. These are crimes that can be considered by fact finders in a trial when credibility is being assessed,” Worthy told me Tuesday evening. “We also contacted the federal agencies for names of Wayne County officers that have either been indicted or convicted.”
When I asked the prosecutor if her office will review cases involving officers on the list, Worthy said, “The Public Integrity Unit has reviewed post-conviction cases when it becomes known to us that an officer involved in that case has Giglio concerns.”
Worthy also said she could not determine if the Detroit officers are still on the payroll but noted that when officers are convicted of a felony, they lose their certification to be a police officer. Because many of the problems that put officers on the list stem from abuse of authority and dishonesty, we need to know if taxpayers are still bankrolling their salaries.
It’s important for any prosecutor to make such a list public because the misdeeds of police officers are a grave danger to public safety. Rigorous public scrutiny of our police forces will lead to better policing and more community trust.
Unfortunately, this will likely fall on the deaf ears of those resisting calls for serious reform who are fighting to falsely mischaracterize the current demand for police accountability reflected in the number of demonstrations taking place to affirm Black humanity.
Catch “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which broadcasts at 11 a.m. weekdays on 910AM.