A video of police officers striking and yelling obscenities at a man who appears to be held down on the ground has prompted an official investigation, even as a police chief defends the officers’ actions as “proper.”
The video, posted Monday by Facebook user Emma Craig, shows an arrest on a neighborhood sidewalk on Detroit's west side. It begins with a police officer who is on top of a man on the ground and is attempting to restrain him. Before he handcuffs him, the officer hits the man several times. Shortly after, a second officer kicks the man twice.
After handcuffing the subject, the first officer stands.
Responding to a comment from the cuffed man, the second officer kneels down, appears to put his knee on his back and says, “What did you say? Jesus? You’re calling Jesus? ... You f***er. Don’t you dare, don’t you f****ing dare.”
Later in the video, a third officer remarks that it was "a justified a** whupping."
The officers involved in the Monday arrest are part of ACTION, a stolen car task force that includes officers from Detroit and three adjacent cities: Grosse Pointe Park, Harper Woods and Highland Park. It is not clear from the video or police statements which department the officers are affiliated with, though Detroit Police Chief James Craig said none of the officers involved was with the Detroit force.
In a release sent to The Huffington Post by the Grosse Pointe Park Department of Public Safety, Chief David Hiller said the officers were attempting to arrest an armed, “extremely dangerous wanted felon” who was suspected in a carjacking and had resisted arrest.
“[The officers] were required to utilize various techniques to affect the arrest,” according to the statement. “Due to the totality of the circumstances we believe the actions of the officers in affecting the arrest proper.”
Hiller’s statement appears to be cosigned by the department heads of the three other municipalities. However, Detroit's chief said in his own statement Tuesday evening that he hadn’t seen the clip or signed off on anything.
“There were no DPD officers at the scene at the time of the arrest and I did not intend to express any opinion on the actions of the officers involved,” Craig wrote.
According to Hiller's statement, the incident began when a tracking service alerted the officers to the location of a car that had been stolen. Earlier, a man had pointed a gun at the driver of the car and her two children, threatened to shoot them if they didn’t get out and stole her purse and vehicle.
Once they had located the car, officers waited until a black man who otherwise fit the description of the suspect entered the vehicle and began driving, authorities said. The officers followed him until he eventually stopped and got out. They attempted to arrest him then, but he ran. Officers chased him for a quarter mile before tackling him, the police statement said.
“The subject resisted arrest and in an attempt to restrain him an officer deployed a Taser however it failed to take effect due to the subject’s heavy clothing,” the statement continued. “The subject continue to reach for the area of his waist band [sic] and refused all orders to show his hands. He curled up in a ball and his right hand again went under his clothing. Fearing for their safety and those in the immediate area, an officer delivered a kick to the thigh area of the subject thus allowing the other officers the ability to arrest the subject. Located in his waist band was a loaded semi-automatic handgun.”
According to police, the suspect had absconded from parole stemming from an armed robbery conviction. He told officers he stole the vehicle in order to get drugs, police said.
At the behest of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office asked Michigan State Police to investigate the incident. MSP confirmed to the Detroit Free Press that an investigation would be conducted. Craig said the DPD will cooperate fully with the investigation and withhold judgment until it is concluded.
Grosse Pointe Park is a wealthy, primarily white suburb that borders majority-black Detroit on its eastern side. Its police officers have previously come under fire for their treatment of black citizens.
In 2013, five officers were suspended after videos surfaced of officers compelling a black man to sing and make animal noises. A photo released at the same time showed a man riding in the back of a truck. The image, allegedly taken by an officer, was captioned: “Got to love the coloreds."
The incidents led the Grosse Pointe Park Public Safety Department to enter into a memorandum of agreement on community trust, respect and civil rights with the U.S. Justice Department and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. In the memorandum, the department pledged to develop a racial profiling training program that all officers would take within a year.