Bankole: Fire Detroit police officers with untruthful history

Bankole Thompson

A bombshell revelation this week that 54 Detroit police officers have a history of untruthfulness and as a result, prosecutors cannot use their testimonies to prosecute cases in court is alarming.

The disclosure coming days after Detroit Police Chief James Craig hailed the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners passage of a problematic facial recognition technology which can wrongly identify blacks as suspects, further raises trust issues with the DPD. 

DPD Chief James Craig should terminate officers with histories of untruthfulness, Thompson writes.

“This is a great day. We all win. Families win. The city wins,” Craig said as he celebrated the use of facial recognition technology.

Well, it is not a great day in Detroit when more than four dozen officers who are sworn to protect and uphold the public trust have a problem with the truth. That their words don’t mean much in the discharge of their duties is disgraceful for a law enforcement institution like the DPD, which extols the virtues of honor, courage and integrity.

The city and Detroiters will only win if the officers in question are removed from the police force. But instead of dismissing them, Craig has indicated that they will be moved to units that don’t make large arrests. 

There is no acceptable rationale to keep these dishonorable officers on the taxpayer dime. There is no logical argument to keep individuals with authority who cannot be trusted, and whose testimonies in any court of competent jurisdiction would be found worthless. Keeping them on the payroll will only deepen the mistrust between the police department and the community it ought to be serving judiciously.

If Craig is serious about salvaging the reputation of DPD, he needs to move swiftly to end the working relationship between those officers and the department. If he doesn’t act with the sense of urgency that is required in an era where police misconduct has dominated conversations about criminal justice reform across the nation, Mayor Mike Duggan needs to step up to the podium and do so. The buck stops with Duggan, who has been publicly silent about the issue.  

Alison Berry Wilkinson, a California attorney who has defended law enforcement officers, underscored in an essay the need for officers to be truthful because their credibility is key in effectively prosecuting any crime.

"Truthfulness is not only an issue of police witness credibility in a court of law; it strikes to the core of the ability to perform essential functions effectively. Police officers complete factual reports based upon their investigations and observations. These reports are relied upon by others to further investigations and are often used as critical evidence in a variety of proceedings,” Wilkinson wrote. “Simply put, a law enforcement official’s word, and the complete veracity of that word, is the fundamentally necessary to doing the job.”

As a veteran law enforcement official, Detroit Police Chief James Craig ought to know the importance of honesty to police work, Thompson writes.

Craig is a veteran law enforcement official. He need not be reminded that the discredited officers he plans to move around to various units so they can keep their job will stain the reputation of the entire force.

The longer they remain on the job, the more harmful it will be for the department because it will undermine the integrity of the good cops who wake up every day to ensure the public safety of all Detroiters. We should not allow the work of those honest men and women in blue to be called into question by the dozens of officers who have a documented history of dishonesty.

But Craig and his command staff have decided that they are willing to go through a damaging public relations nightmare that is detrimental to DPD. He should not reward dishonest officers with a check. 

It also remains unclear if any of the tainted officers are involved in ongoing cases or ligation that the city may be involved in. Detroit is notorious for paying thousands of dollars for lawsuits connected to police abuse.

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews

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