Detroit police now have a duty to intervene when officers use excessive force


Detroit police squad car. - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • Detroit police squad car.

Detroit police are now required to intervene when they witness another officer using excessive force or engaging in other misconduct.

DPD Chief James Craig announced Thursday that he signed a “duty to intervene” executive order as part of an overhaul of the department’s use-of-force policy. Police who violate the order can be fired.

Before the order, police were only required to report misconduct.

Police departments across the country are implementing “duty to intervene” policies following the death of George Floyd, who was killed when a Minneapolis cop knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. While Floyd repeatedly cried out, “I can’t breathe,” nearby officers did nothing to intervene. Those officers have been charged with aiding and abetting in his murder.

The policy is designed to break through the so-called “blue wall of silence,” the tradition of police refusing to rat each other out or step on each other's toes.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in June unveiled a plan in late June that included a duty intervene. But with a Republican-led Legislature, the plan has not gained traction.

Detroit’s 11-member Board of Police Commissioners, which is tasked with oversight of DPD, is considering strengthening the department’s use of force policy. On June 11, Commissioner Willie Burton, the lone progressive voice on the board, proposed demilitarizing the police force and banning the use of tear gas and flash-bang grenades. Some of his colleagues laughed at him, and the proposals failed.

"You want to be on the right side of history on this," Burton told commissioners as they rejected his proposals without a debate.

So far this month, Detroit police have shot four people, and Craig has defended each shooting as justified.

In a cover story on June 24, Metro Times explored what it would mean to defund DPD.

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