Detroit Board of Police Commissioners says it’s under investigation

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The Detroit Board of Police Commissioners — a police oversight board long marred by a reputation for dysfunction and ineffectiveness — acknowledged this week it's under investigation by multiple local authorities.

In a statement late Wednesday, Board Chairman Bryan Ferguson said multiple investigations are underway but did not disclose the specific nature of those probes.

“Some or all of these investigations were initiated because of inconsistencies discovered by Commissioners and/or Staff members who recognize the importance of transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility in our service to the community,” Ferguson said in news release issued at 11 p.m. Wednesday.

A meeting of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners inside the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters, Thursday, July 21, 2022.
A meeting of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners inside the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters, Thursday, July 21, 2022.

News of the investigations was first reported by the Detroit News, citing unnamed sources.

Authorities leading the investigations: the Auditor General, the Office of the Inspector General, the Detroit Police Department Internal Affairs Unit as well as board and staff leadership, according to Ferguson.

The Detroit Free Press inquired about potential investigations in December. Board and police officials at the time said they were unaware of any investigation.

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“The Board of Police Commissioners and Staff are committed to be fully cooperative with these investigations,” Ferguson said in the release. "Staff will continue to be given the opportunity for due process, and if warranted, any appropriate discipline will be brought before the full Board for determination after the conclusion of the investigations.

“In the meantime, the Board will continue to operate in the best interest of the residents of Detroit by taking the necessary measures to maintain the security and integrity of all documentation and potential evidence. 1This includes limiting and/or removing select staff members’ access to BOPC/OCI offices, citizen complaint records, personnel records, and/or operational systems based on perceived or actual risk and best corporate management practices.”

Ferguson said that once the investigations are complete, the board intends to release a full report to the public.

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The 11-member board, made up of seven elected members and four appointed ones, has a reputation for squabbling and outbursts. It recently faced intense criticism for a massive backlog of hundreds uninvestigated police complaints amid an exodus of investigators.

There were also city charter violations when former Interim Chief Investigator Lawrence Akbar and former Interim Board Secretary Melanie White held their temporary positions for more than two years.

Akbar was also accused by multiple former investigators of cultivating a toxic work environment and of harassment and retaliation, allegations he denied.

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A Detroit police spokesperson this week acknowledged that Chief James White is aware the commission is being investigated but couldn't provide details or confirm whether DPD is conducting a probe.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Board of Police Commissioners under investigation