By Eric D. Lawrence
Detroit Free Press
GROSSE POINTE PARK, Mich. — A Grosse Pointe Park police officer has been removed from duty after admitting taking video of a presumably mentally ill man being commanded to sing and make odd noises for the cop's cell phone camera.
The police department launched an investigation into the demeaning videos reportedly recorded by a Grosse Pointe Park police officer. The videos have drawn condemnation and protests because they appear to have been designed to humiliate Michael Scipio, 55, of Detroit.
"An officer has stepped forward to take responsibility for the video and for interacting with Mr. Scipio in that fashion. The officer has been removed from patrol duty pending the conclusion of our investigation," said Grosse Pointe Park spokesman Greg Bowens. He added the investigation is nearly complete.
"We are asking anyone who has a video showing someone being mistreated in this fashion to call the Grosse Pointe Park (Public Safety) Department and the mayor's office," said Bowens.
Scipio has acknowledged that he is the man in the videos, saying he thought he was recorded singing various songs in an effort to make fun of him. Scipio had lived in a Detroit boarding house near Grosse Pointe Park and often came in contact with Park public safety officers.
Bowens said authorities have asked the Motor City Muckraker operator, Steve Neavling, to provide them with any additional examples of such videos. Bowens said as of late Friday, the department has yet to receive any additional videos.
"If there is a pattern, certainly Grosse Pointe Park (officials) would like to know about it, but as it stands right now, the only evidence is of what has occurred to Mr. Scipio," Bowens said. If this is "a quest for justice and a desire to set this right, then we need the evidence to do that."
Neavling referenced other videos in his initial report on the situation last week but wrote that "because of the humiliating nature of some of the videos, we aren't publishing most of them." He wrote that humiliating photos and videos were sent in text messages to the friends and family of police officers.
Neavling e-mailed a statement Friday, saying he wants to help police get justice in the case. "After getting a request last night for more videos, I am making arrangements to get those to police as soon as possible. I am awaiting a response from my source, who must give me permission to pass on more videos. I am confident she'll want to do that," Neavling wrote.
The Grosse Pointe Park Public Safety Department announced that it was launching its investigation into the videos last week, noting that the department "does not tolerate unprofessional conduct by its officers when interacting with any citizen they may come in contact with."
Michigan State Police were initially expected to help with the investigation but rescinded that offer, according to Park officials.
Bowens offered an apology on behalf of the community. "We all feel deeply, deeply sorry for the video we saw on the website. This is not a true reflection of the people of the city of Grosse Pointe Park," Bowens said. "People are working very hard to hold the ones responsible for that video accountable."
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2013 the Detroit Free Press