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Death sentences

After our story last year about 17 people who died while in the Detroit Police Department's custody — most of whom were allegedly denied medical treatment while in jail — Chief Benny Napoleon thanked the paper for bringing the issue to his attention ("Death in the lockup," MT, Sept 15-21, 1999) and promised the department would work on a plan to prevent more deaths from occurring.

"I imagine our entire policy will change as it relates to that," said Napoleon.

Well, a year has passed and at least five more people have died while in jail, says attorney Dave Robinson, who has sued the city on behalf of several families whose relatives died in Detroit lockups.

Among Robinson's cases was Larry Bell, who died of heart failure in 1997 at the First Precinct after allegedly being denied the medical help he asked for, according to court records. That case recently settled for $400,000, according to Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Maryann Mahaffey.

Mahaffey said there has been some discussion about installing cameras that may cost $7 million to help monitor lockups, but nothing is final.

"It's a question of finding the money," said Mahaffey.

Ann Mullen is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com

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