Civil rights groups rip Detroit Police stop-and-frisk plan

September 5, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Michigan, speaks with the media on Thursday during a press conference at the ACLU of Michigan office in Detroit to express concern about a Detroit Police Department plan to adopt a stop-and-frisk policy.
 
Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Michigan, speaks with the media on Thursday during a press conference at the ACLU of Michigan office in Detroit to express concern about a Detroit Police Department plan to adopt a stop-and-frisk policy. (Steve Perez / The Detroit News)

Civil rights groups rip Detroit Police stop-and-frisk plan

  • George Hunter
  • The Detroit News

Detroit— A coalition of civil rights organizations on Thursday expressed concern about a Detroit Police plan to adopt a stop-and-frisk policy in the wake of a federal judge’s decision that found that the practice in New York was unconstitutional.

The Manhattan Institute and Bratton Group, consultants hired to help shape Detroit Police Department policy, pioneered the stop-and-frisk model when they developed New York’s program. Last month, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled the program was unconstitutional and said the city’s police unfairly targeted blacks and Hispanics.

The consultants are implementing a stop-and-frisk initiative in Detroit, laid out in their contract with the city, in which Traffic Unit officers are training to “prevent street crime through the use of traffic stops.”

Members of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, the Arab-American Civil Rights League and the National Action Network held a press conference Thursday to voice their opposition to the plan.

“We don’t want STRESS 2.0,” Dawud Walid, director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in reference to the controversial Detroit Police unit, “Stop the Robberies, Enjoy Safe Streets,” which was disbanded by former Mayor Coleman Young after residents complained officers assigned to the unit were violating citizens’ civil rights.

Walid pointed out that police aren’t allowed to stop someone solely based on race, which the federal judge said was happening in New York.

“Some may say that Detroit is 80 percent black, so how can there be racial profiling? But if the police department is involved in looking at just skin color, that doesn’t make our community safer, but it also takes away people’s dignity.”

Ron Scott, director of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, said his organization already has received dozens of complaints about police improperly stopping residents.

“For quite some time, we’ve gotten complaints from people who were stopped, or in many cases, what amounts to home invasions by police looking for drugs,” Scott said. “Crime can best be combated by the police working with the community, not making people enemy combatants.”

ACLU attorney Mark Fancher pointed out that stop-and-frisk policies are legal.

“As long as it’s carried out properly,” he said. “But there’s the prospect it’ll be carried out in an unconstitutional way. What concerns us is (the Manhattan Institute’s) legal analysis in which they endorse what’s happening in New York. We have a very big problem with that.”

Later Thursday, Walid appeared at the weekly meeting of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners to complain about police officers’ improper frisking of two Muslim youths and to air his concerns about the department’s stop-and-frisk program.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig insisted Detroit’s program won’t mirror New York’s.

“The Detroit Police Department has not, and will not adopt a stop-and-frisk model like you’ve read about in New York,” he said. “I don’t like using the term ‘stop-and-frisk’ because it has a negative connotation. I refer to it as investigative stops. Sometimes no frisk is even done.”

Craig also pointed out that the police department is under a federal consent decree, and said his officers will adhere to federal guidelines.

Craig also stressed he will have final word about Detroit Police policy.

“Keep in mind, the Manhattan Institute and the Bratton Group are just advisers,” he said. “There’s been no training for a stop-and-frisk model like New York’s. That has not happened and will not happen.”

Craig said the sole focus of the quarterly Command Accountability Meeting, to be held Sept. 24 at police headquarters, will be on the department’s stop-and-frisk policy.

“We’ll explain some of the misunderstandings, and articulate some of the issues surrounding stop-and-frisk,” Craig said.

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