The Michigan Coalition of Human Rights (MCHR) condemns the savage beating and arrest of Floyd Dent by Officers of the Inkster Police Department. We call for a sweeping and independent investigation of the Inkster Police Department by the Department of Justice – Civil Rights Division.
Floyd Dent deserves restitution for his injuries – both mental and physical. Those directly involved – including the Inkster Police Department itself — must be held personally and legally accountable for their actions. However, justice in this case alone is not enough.
We reject any depiction of this as an isolated incident or as the act of a lone “bad apple” or “rogue cop.” Sadly, it is just one example of the systemic and institutionalized police misconduct and brutality that has plagued our nation’s law enforcement agencies, including Detroit and the surrounding area, for decades. This case, along with several other recent high profile cases, have brought national attention to realities of our justice system that have long been familiar to communities throughout the country.
The change in policing practices that is needed in Inkster, Metro Detroit and across the country requires a transformation of our law enforcement culture from one that treats us like threats to be neutralized, or as sources of revenue, to one that treats us like charges to be protected and served.
Commitment and action at all levels of government – federal, state and local – is needed to restore faith in one of society’s most vital institutions.
MCHR calls on leaders and the communities they serve to organize and mobilize peacefully until an enduring and permanent resolution is reached.
Background Material on Officer Melendez, Officer Randazzo and Chief Yost:
Officer Melendez has been a central player in major cases involving human and civil rights violations over the last twenty years, and, as with so many police departments with so many officers like him, he has been given carte blanche to repeatedly violate peoples’ rights with impunity. The following known history regarding Officer Melendez bears repeating:
Police Chief Vicki Yost’s, a 19 year veteran of the DPD who became the Inkster Chief of Police in August 2014, also has questionable events in her background:
The raid was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge who found that “the police misconduct at the CAID was not an isolated incident, but was in fact part of “a widespread practice” and “custom” by the Detroit Police Department of unconstitutionally “detaining, searching, and prosecuting large groups of persons” and impounding their cars based on their mere presence at a raid location.” (11)
Inkster Police Officer Phillip “Chuck” Randazzo is Officer Melendez’s Partner and also played a role in both the Acklin and Dent incidents. Some relevant information regarding Randazzo:
Comparison between Inkster, MI and Ferguson, MO
Both Inkster and Ferguson are nearly identical in size at 6 square miles. Both are suburbs of a larger metropolitan area. Each has between 20 – 25K residents. As of the 2010 census, 67% of the residents in Ferguson identify as African American while 73% identify as African American in Inkster. The Inkster police force is estimated to be 80 – 90 percent white (8) while the police force in Ferguson is 92 percent white (9). Approximately 25 percent of Ferguson residents live below the federal poverty level (9) compared to 38 percent in Inkster (10).
Some Remaining Questions
Additional Examples of Police Misconduct in the Region
Police violence and abuse of authority are rampant. In addition to what we are learning about the Inkster Police Department and its officers, the following additional examples shed further light on the tip of the iceberg:
These are just a few examples of what is routinely tolerated, condoned and encouraged within law enforcement agencies throughout our community. It is no surprise that Mr. Dent’s vicious beating was committed in front of the officers’ own video cameras; for the most part, police officers are immune from any consequences for their routine violation of citizens’ constitutional rights.
The Michigan Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR) strongly opposes the continuation of a culture of racism and violence that pervades our communities’ law enforcement agencies.
Unless and until the departments and municipalities are properly investigated and held accountable for their acquiescence in such acts of violence and racism, we do not believe that they will stop. This is not simply a case of one “rogue cop,” it is systemic. Until the system is fundamentally transformed, we will continue to be witness to countless examples of tragedies such as those that occurred in Inkster, in Ferguson Missouri, in Madison, Wisconsin, in Aurora, Colorado, in Salinas, California and in Staten Island, New York. Police brutality will not stop until the culture of police racism and violence is institutionally and fundamentally altered.
“But the report wasn’t as rosy about Napoleon’s job record as he was. In 2012, it says clearance rates were horrific: 23 percent for aggravated assaults, 11 percent for robberies, and zero percent for murders. Those numbers have led citizens to share “a prevailing feeling of chaos and hopelessness,” the report says.
The report also pulled no punches about how the department is operating today, citing an “obvious effort by responding officers not to take reports,” “ineffective and inefficient investigation function,” and that the department “has evolved into the Chief’s private militia.”
“Either they’re going to give us the resources to put a police force out here, or they’re going to (have to) bring the National Guard in,” says Inkster Police Chief Hilton Napoleon.
Napoleon says his ranks are down from over 60 officers just two years ago, to only 24 men in uniform. He wants more officers to fight crime and he wants a piece of the state’s $400 million surplus.
A couple were celebrating the girlfriend’s birthday party when Yost’s vice squad raided the nightclub and beat the plantiffs for no reason. Hall was arrested and jailed on the charge of interfering with a police officer during the performance of the officer’s duties. His charges were eventually dropped without going to trial.
Claimed that Yost and other members of the Vice Squad raided Plan B nightclub and beat, falsely arrested, jailed and charged innocent patrons attending a birthday party.
Atty. Greg Rohl states that Melendez admitted to pulling Dent over because he was “a black man driving a Cadillac in a high crime neighborhood.
First sentence of this article: “A federal court jury Thursday acquitted eight Detroit police officers of violating the constitutional rights of drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes.”
Grable vs. Brown – Vicki Yost’s partner, wrongful death lawsuit in which Yost testified in her ex-partners favor and plead the 5th – COURT OF APPEALS OF MICHIGAN No. 256215,
2005 Mich. App. Lexis 3173, December 20, 2005, Decided –
“Although defendant and Yost testified that Grable shot at defendant and that defendant returned fire, there was circumstantial evidence to support plaintiff’s theory that Grable did not shoot at defendant because Grable never possessed a gun. Circumstantial evidence to support or oppose a proposition is equal with direct evidence. Reed v Breton, 264 Mich. App. 363, 375; 691 N.W.2d 779 (2004). Specifically, there was evidence that, shortly before the chase and shooting, Grable attended a Police Athletic League (PAL) party where he was searched for weapons and found to possess none. There was no evidence that Grable obtained a weapon between the time that he left the PAL party and the shooting occurred. There was also no evidence of Grable’s fingerprints on the gun found next to his body.”
. . .
“ Q. Mr. Grable was on the ground over here and you fire those four shots, you know now, into his chest, point blank range, contact range, as he fell to the ground. Let me ask you this. Is it possible, sir, that rather than Mr. Grable being erect, that he was instead already down on the ground and you punitively, kneeling down on one knee, sir, pumping him with those four rounds? Is that possible?”
“Furthermore, there were several inconsistencies between the officers’ trial testimony and their prior statements and between their trial testimony and the physical evidence that could have caused a reasonable juror to disbelieve the officers’ version of events. Regarding the inconsistencies with the officers’ prior statements, Yost’s version of the events in her preliminary report, where she recalled only one round of shooting, was contrary to her version at discovery and trial, where she recalled two rounds of shooting between Grable and defendant. Yost’s original wording regarding the incident changed from defendant “tackled” Grable to “collided” with Grable and from Grable held what she “believed to be a weapon” to Grable was “armed” when he ran from the police. Defendant also had minor inconsistencies between his preliminary report and trial testimony regarding his distance from Grable when Grable shot at him and whether Grable “waited” for him behind the mound where the scuffle ensued.
There was also testimony from expert witnesses of inconsistencies between the officers’ version of the events and the physical evidence. Most notably, plaintiff’s expert, Dr. John G. Peters, testified that, evidence of stippling around one of the holes in defendant’s shirt, and not around the other hole, indicated that the barrel of the gun that shot defendant “moved some distance away” for the shot that showed no stippling. This was contrary to defendant’s testimony that he was shot when he and Grable were so close to each other that the barrel of Grable’s gun was probably touching his clothing. In addition, Dr. Peters noted that, in defendant’s preliminary report of the shooting and deposition, he failed to account for the near-contact wound to the back of Grable’s left arm. Dr. Peters testified that, if Grable had fired at defendant using his right hand as defendant contended, there should not have been gunpowder on both of Grable’s hands. Dr. Peters opined that the presence of gunpowder on both of Grable’s hands indicated that he held his hands in a defensive position when he was shot. Dr. Peters testified to inconsistencies between Yost’s testimony regarding the manner in which the gun found near Grable’s body was fired. Dr. Peters opined that these inconsistencies raised “a serious doubt” regarding the number of shots fired or what happened to the weapon as it was being examined. Dr. Peters found it odd that Yost’s version of the events seemed to become clearer as time passed since one’s memory is generally fresher closer to the event. Dr. Peters opined that defendant’s and Yost’s behavior could be consistent with peer secrecy and deviant police behavior.”
“Former Police Chief Hilton Napoleon, who resigned last summer after a 3 1/2-year tenure that included internal strife and two officers’ union votes of no confidence, told the Free Press on Thursday that he’d known officers who would lie under oath.”
“I’ve had complaints of Inkster officers taking money off of people and planting drugs,” he said.
“Detroit police officers kill citizens at a higher rate than police in any other big US city, according to FBI statistics made public by the Detroit Free Press Monday, May 15. Detroit had a rate of 0.92 fatal shootings per 100,000 residents, far higher than New York and Los Angeles, two cities recently scandalized by revelations of widespread police killings and brutality.
Detroit, with nearly 1 million residents, averaged nearly 10 fatal police shootings each year between 1990 and 1998. By comparison, New York, with 7.3 million residents, averaged 28 fatal shootings a year during the same period—a rate of 0.39.
Over the past few days, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News have published exposés about the police shootings and subsequent cover-ups by internal police investigators, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and the Michigan State Police. The articles have detailed several cases in which police officers killed or severely wounded senior citizens, teenagers and mentally ill persons, and then were exonerated after claiming they had fired in self-defense.”
Vicki Yost Quote on Incident and Investigation:
“As for the officers, Inkster Police Chief Vicki Yost says one of them is on administrative duty as this investigation goes on.”
“It’s important to know, we’re not hiding from this. We started the investigation. We launched internal investigation without a complaint. When all the facts are in, we’ll take the appropriate action,” says Chief Yost.”