Police Rewarded With Secondary Employment Amid Budget Cuts And Heightened Repression
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Seven-year-old Aiyana Jones, who was killed by a Detroit police special unit team that raided her home on May 16, was eulogized on Saturday, May 22 at Second Ebenezer Church on the city’s east side. The city remains shocked and angered over the shooting and subsequent efforts by Mayor Bing’s administration and the police to shift responsibility for the unprovoked killing to the recent rash in violence that has hit Detroit.
Mayor Bing and police Chief Warren Evans, who were both criticized even by the corporate media for not responding quickly to the death of Aiyana Jones, have urged the public not to reach conclusions about the killing until all the facts are available. The Mayor then accused Atty. Jeffrey Fieger, who is representing the family of Aiyana Jones in two civil lawsuits that were filed just a few days after her death, of only being concerned about money and not about revealing what really happened at the home where the deadly police raid occurred.
With the Detroit police facing intense criticism and scrutiny, the administration and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has turned over the investigation into the killing of Aiyana Jones to the Michigan State Police. On May 20 State police showed up at the Jones’ family home seeking to search the premises for evidence related to the raid on May 16.
When the family refused to cooperate and allow the state cops to enter the home, they returned with a search warrant and a locksmith and proceeded to comb the residence for clues related to the killing of Aiyana. This was tantamount to a second raid and raised tensions even further between the community and the law-enforcement agencies.
When it was announced that the Rev. Al Sharpton of New York would deliver the eulogy at the memorial service for Aiyana, the Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, who is a Republican candidate for Governor, launched an attack asking rhetorically “where was he last week when Detroit police officer Brian Huff was killed?” Huff was killed on May 3 when police raided a vacant home in the same neighborhood where Jones’ home is located.
Four other officers were wounded in the May 3 shooting along with a suspect, Jason Gibson, 25. Gibson, who has been charged in the shooting of the police officers, had a preliminary examination on murder and assault charges scheduled for May 24. It was postponed to a later date in June.
In response to the attack by the Attorney General on Sharpton, local minister Rev. Horace Sheffield III, who is president of the Michigan chapter of the National Action Network, headed by Sharpton, stated that “I think it’s disturbing, disgusting and unacceptable for him to forsake his law enforcement role for his public pandering trying to get elected to another office role.“ (Detroit Free Press, May 21)
In fact the entire apparatus of the power structure including the city administration, the police, the prosecutor’s office, the Michigan State police, the attorney general and the governor have been hostile and defensive in regard to criticism surrounding the raid and the subsequent investigation into the death of Aiyana Jones. In a statement issued by the Detroit police it says that “Due to the fact that the family of Aiyana Jones has apparently retained legal counsel, along with the fact that the investigation into the raid…has been handed over to the Michigan State Police, the city of Detroit Law Department has advised the Detroit Police Department to refrain from giving any further comment on this investigation.” (Detroit News, May 19)
However, even a corporate-oriented consulting firm has questioned the city administration’s handling of the political situation surrounding the killing of Aiyana Jones. According to the Los Angeles-based Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. “You can’t hide behind a press release. In a case like this one, lawyers will restrict what you can say, but that doesn’t stop you from doing the right thing by making a verbal statement, and reaching out to the family.”
Cora Mitchell, whose son was tased to death in April 2009 by the neighboring suburban Warren police in the same neighborhood where Aiyana Jones was killed, told the Detroit News that the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality (DCAPB) was doing the job of the city administration by working with the Jones’ family. “Why is Ron Scott here doing Warren Evans’ job? He should be here; Mayor Bing should be here. They should be apologizing to this family.”(Detroit News, May 19)
Stephen Henderson, a Detroit Free Press columnist, also observed that “If ever there is a time to show how leadership and compassion shape Bing’s relationship with Detroiters, it’s now.”(Mlive.com, May 21)
United States Congressman John Conyers from Detroit, who is the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has requested that the Justice Department conduct an investigation into the killing of Aiyana Jones. Conyers said that “It is imperative that we take all possible steps to calm the situation, reassure the community that their safety is a national priority, and lessen the chance of future bloodshed.” (Mlive.com, May 21)
Nonetheless, Gov. Jennifer Granholm refuted Conyers’ call saying that the Michigan State Police are more than qualified to handle the present situation. Granholm claimed that “Clearly an investigation could reveal changes that need to be made to ensure it never happens again, and that’s what the Michigan State Police are going to undertake.” (Mlive.com,, May 21)
Cops Rewarded With Secondary Employment Amid Budget Cuts and Continued Repression
Just two days after the raid that resulted in the death of Aiyana Jones, the Detroit City Council voted 5-3, with one abstention, to adopt a new ordinance allowing cops to work additional jobs providing security to private businesses. This ordinance was passed despite warnings from the DCAPB that such an ordinance would raise the level of legal claims against the city government which would be financially responsible in the event that lawsuits charging police misconduct, brutality and wrongful deaths were settled against the administration.
At a City Council public hearing on May 18 where the ordinance was passed, the bulk of the discussion prior to the vote was conducted by top police officials and City Council members, two of whom were former law-enforcement officials. When the DCAPB spoke during the public comment section, each member was only given one minute to address the Council on their opposition to the ordinance.
One argument advanced by the Coalition was to point out that typically civil servants are not allowed to hold secondary jobs or operate private businesses while employed by the City of Detroit. Also most workers have had overtime cut even though there is a back log of tasks needed to provide adequate city services.
At the same time, non-union employees have had a 10 percent wage cuts imposed on them while unionized workers have been fighting the same pay reductions through demonstrations and court actions. In addition, hundreds of city workers have been laid off in response to cuts ostensibly designed to trim the purported $316 million budget deficit for the city.
In the initial budget proposal submitted by Mayor Bing, some $101 million in cuts had been requested. These cuts would bring about further lay-offs and the reduction in city services.
However, one day after the City Council voted to grant secondary employment to cops, another $31.8 million in cuts were placed in the budget by the same legislative body. These cuts would even take place within the police department, which has by far the largest allocation of city funds. Approximately 42 percent of the city budget is handed over to the police department.
In response to the passage of the ordinance granting secondary employment rights to the cops, the DCAPB issued a press release stating that “The passage of the ordinance without adequate public debate and testimony from experts on law-enforcement practices, deprived the public of hearing a number of fundamental issues that would arise from the enactment of such a new law in Detroit.” (DCAPB Press Release, May 19)
“This statement went on to point out that “Over the last two decades various citizens have been awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in damages resulting from both jury decisions and out-of-court settlements involving police misconduct and brutality. As a result of this pattern, a federal investigation was conducted by the U.S. Justice Department for three years which resulted in two consent decrees aimed at reforming the Detroit Police Department’s practices related to the use of lethal force as well as the conditions under which people are detained while under investigation or for questioning.”
In the days following these developments, the repressive actions of law-enforcement has continued. On May 21, a Michigan State Police officer shot and wounded a man on the city’s east side after a reported high speed chase through a residential area. According to the Detroit News, “More than 30 officers, including members of Detroit’s gang squad, and at least a dozen police vehicles converged on the scene of the shooting.” (Detroit News, May 22)
This is in the same area where young Aiyana Jones was killed on May 16. The shooting of the young man took place after he had exited the vehicle that had crashed into a large tree.
Over one hundred people from the community came out into the streets and protested the police actions. At least one neighborhood leader was taken into custody after they objected to the shooting and the reported jovial atmosphere among the police after the incident.
At least two area ministers were asked by Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans to enter the neighborhood to calm down the crowd because of fears of possible civil unrest.
On May 23, the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality held a community meeting downtown at the St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. The Coalition announced that it would step-up its activities aimed at ending police brutality by calling for a mass demonstration outside the Board of Police Commissioners meeting held at police headquarters on May 27.
The Coalition is calling for justice in the police killing of Aiyana Jones and the immediate compliance and enforcement of the federal consent decrees involving police misconduct and brutality.
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