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Detroit’s Chief Calls for Tougher Discipline of Officers

Police Chief Jerry Oliver of the Detroit Police Department called for improved discipline and scrutiny of his department’s police officers yesterday, stating that there are “criminals” currently working for the department. Oliver criticized the lack of accountability held by many officers, and the assumption that prosecutors and Internal Affairs will grant officers ‘professional courtesy’ and dismiss their charges. There are currently 300 backlogged cases in the Internal Affairs division, with many of the cases being serious crimes. Oliver cited one case of an officer who he fired just last week, after it came to his attention that the officer had been found guilty of sexually assaulting a female prisoner four years ago. While there has been support for Oliver’s stance from the civil rights community, the police union and others have condemned the Chief’s remarks as inflammatory and extreme. John Goldpaugh, a lawyer for the police officer’s union, said “It appears to me that the chief’s position is that if you are charged with a misdemeanor – regardless of its nature – that you can’t be a police officer. Well one of those misdemeanors is domestic assaults, and because I have an altercation with my wife or significant otherÉ does that mean the guy should be fired automatically?” The attorney’s comments make clear a prevalent attitude within a sector of the law enforcement community that downplays the seriousness of domestic assault. This is especially disturbing when one considers that a police officer who commits domestic violence in his own home will also be responding to citizen’s domestic violence calls, which account for over half of all violent crime calls to police departments. Studies on the rate of domestic violence in police families show that they are 2-4 times more likely to experience domestic violence than the average American family. Police officers who commit domestic violence are rarely prosecuted, and often protected by fellow officers, while their families fail to receive adequate justice from law enforcement.

Sources:

The Detroit News, 05/28/02