On Monday night, Nov. 24, the whole world was watching the United States of America to determine whether race and justice would ever be conjoined to resolve the endemic issues of police brutality and militarization. Unfortunately, the response we have seen in Ferguson only magnifies the critical necessity for a fully restored Detroit Police Commission in adherence to the citizen-approved City Charter.
The Detroit News’ recent editorial advocating for a continuation of reduced powers for the Detroit Charter-mandated commission, “Demote the Detroit Police Commission,” is riddled with error and innuendo leading to erroneous conclusions.
First of all, the commission does not approve all hiring; it only had the power under the new charter to appoint the personnel manager to ensure that nepotism would not occur within DPD’s ranks in order to allow for more gender and ethnic diversity. The department has become better because of that mandate.
Secondly, the police commission does not appoint the chief; it merely provides three candidates to the mayor, who makes the final decision.
Thirdly, I won’t even dignify the question of cronyism. If The News cannot prove such statements, they should not make them. The Detroit Police Commission is not a plum job; members only receive car fare for their ongoing weekly meetings and committee work between meetings.
The Detroit Police Commission has been recognized as a hallmark of citizen oversight by similar groups around the country. It is a model to follow. To diminish its value and powers would not only be illegal, but a tragic backward slide into the same problems that served to create the commission in the first place, and that are now played out writ large in Ferguson. If there had been a similar body in Ferguson, perhaps people would be talking more and buildings burning less.
The police commission reflects the constitutional premise of citizen oversight of the military, a fundamental right for which we have long fought. Its powers to investigate unethical and illegal behavior within the department must be retained, to ensure a safer city for all who work, live and play within its borders — including Detroit police officers.
Ron Scott, spokesman, Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality