by Ryan Felton
A Detroit police officer says he was improperly arrested and detained by his own department, after being charged for leaving the scene of an accident, according to a federal lawsuit.
Until December 2014, Jeff Robert worked as a teacher for the Detroit Police Academy. One night that month, he offered to take a female graduate home from class — the lawsuit says, as she didn’t have available transportation. En route, Robert’s motorcycle hit a curb, sending both motorists flying onto the road.
“[Robert] asked his passenger twice if she was okay, and she affirmed that she was okay, and she affirmed that she was all right,” according to the eight-page complaint, filed July 27. “He both called and texted his supervisor right away from the scene of the accident.”
Robert’s supervisor isn’t named as a defendant or within the complaint.
After his passenger made separate arrangements and was picked up, the lawsuit says Robert didn’t remain at the accident location, “since there were no streetlights and it was a deserted and lonely area.” He drove to the former 3rd Precinct police station, where his wife picked him up.
The following day, Robert was arrested by Detroit police officers at his home, and transported to the department’s detention center. There, the lawsuit says, he was told he had been arrested for leaving the scene of the accident, a misdemeanor. Robert would’ve voluntarily presented himself had he been asked, the lawsuit continues.
“The plaintiff was processed, asked if he needed a lawyer, given some advice forms, and then released on a personal bond thereafter, having spent a few minutes in jail,” according to the complaint.
As a result of the incident, the lawsuit says, Robert was suspended — with pay. But the officer lost secondary income, “as he was accustomed to, where such jobs are obtained through and because of his position as a police officer.”
Robert eventually returned to work, according to the suit, and he remains employed, but lost his position from the academy. The department reprimanded him for allegedly failing to notify a supervisor of the accident, the complaint alleges.
The charge against Robert was eventually dropped, the suit says, but the “incident has had an adverse impact on [Robert] at his place of employment.”
“I believe that we have a good chance of winning because Robert followed DPD procedure, and did nothing wrong,” Robert’s attorney, Stanley Okoli, told Metro Times. “He called and texted his superior officer from the scene of the accident.”
The five-count complaint names the City of Detroit as the sole defendant, and accuses the city of intentional infliction of emotional distress, false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. The complaint seeks unspecified exemplary and punitive damages, as well as attorney fees.
A spokesperson for the city deferred comment to the police department, which didn’t respond at the time of publication.