News & Views » Columns

Letter to the chief


Dear Detroit Police Chief Jerry Oliver: As you know, another person bit the dust in one of your precinct lockups last month. Attorney David Robinson filed his 11th jail-death lawsuit against the City of Detroit last week. This time Robinson is representing the family of Paul Harris who was arrested and detained at the Sixth Precinct April 2. He was found dead in his cell the following day, according to the suit. Although Harris was suffering from drug withdrawal, jailers failed to place him in a detoxification cell where he could be closely monitored, the lawsuit states.

That makes at least 23 deaths Detroit in police precinct lock-ups since 1994. What’s so troubling, sir, is that we spoke to former police chief Benny Napoleon about the problem three years ago, when this publication broke the story about detainees dying (“Death in the lockup,” Metro Times, Sept. 15-21, 1999). Though Napoleon vowed to do all he could, the bodies keep piling up, and the U.S. Justice Department is investigating. If you want to make a difference in Detroit — and save the city a lot of money — make good on your predecessor’s promise.

Ann Mullen is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail her at

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.