DETROIT (AP) - Police Chief Jerry Oliver says a U.S. Justice Department
civil rights probe into his department could be completed within months,
he already has plans to make changes.
Oliver told the City Council on Wednesday that he hopes the Justice
Department will issue its findings about how to fix the department by the
end of the year.
The Justice Department had no comment Wednesday, the Detroit Free Press
Federal officials launched the civil-rights probe into the 4,300-officer
department in December 2000 and have been investigating allegations of
excessive use of force, illegal dragnet arrests and mistreatment of
Oliver told The Detroit News that
Investigators have expressed concern about several areas, Oliver told
Detroit News. They include use of deadly force, citizen complaints,
substandard holding cell conditions, bad food for prisoners, dirty precincts
and lack of privacy for female prisoners in precinct holding cells.
"There has been a lot of work done already," Oliver said. But he said
future changes could include:
-Issuing small retractable batons and other non-lethal weapons, including
tasers - commonly known as electric cattle prods - that would give officers
an alternative method of defending themselves.
-Hiring a nationally known police-training expert to supervise all
department training, including how and when to use lethal and non-lethal
force. A revamped training bureau reporting directly to newly appointed
Assistant Chief Ella Bully-Cummings would design the program.
-Appointing a deputy chief to strengthen the department's disciplinary
procedures and make it easier for Oliver to fire bad officers.
Oliver said whatever changes are suggested or implemented, federal
oversight of the department could continue for three to five years.
If federal investigators conclude that the department's problems are
rampant, they could go to federal court to force costly overhauls.
Pamela Evans, deputy chief for the police department's risk management
bureau, said department officials had cordial meetings with federal
investigators in Washington several weeks ago.
But Oliver said whether or not a court order is issued, the department
needs to make changes.
In recent years, Detroit has paid $124 million to people who sued the
police department. On Wednesday, the city agreed to pay $400,000 to settle
lawsuit filed by two years ago by Samuel Harris. The Detroit resident said
he was mistakenly beaten by narcotics officers who were carrying out a raid
on his street in 1999.
"We are going to straighten out this issue and it's not going to be easy,
but we're going to be moving to bring back, honor, integrity, and honesty
the Detroit Police Department," Oliver said.