Detroit Police Chief James Craig tried to reassure the public Tuesday that the department is equipped and committed to rooting out corruption within its own ranks.
The move comes after a coalition of grassroots organizations publicly questioned the DPD’s willingness and ability to do that in the midst of an ongoing investigation into the department’s narcotics unit, also known as the Major Violators Section.
Craig launched that investigation in August 2019, after a former DPD officer was indicted for taking bribes from a drug dealer. That officer, Michael Mosley, faces a trial scheduled to start next month.
DPD investigators raided the Major Violators section, seizing records and computers. Preliminary results from the investigation turned up evidence that officers in the unit stole from drug dealers, planted drugs on suspects and lied to get search warrants, Craig announced in December.
Craig says he initially expected the investigation to take about year. Now, he says it will likely take much longer. He describes the investigation as a “monumental undertaking” that will involve reviewing cases going back ten years.
Craig says that investigation has picked up “significant momentum” since December, when the department started a hotline for tips related to the case. He says the hotline has been fruitful and “we are getting a number of tips.”
Craig insists the department is well-equipped to investigating itself.
“Frankly, we’re best poised to do the investigation. We have a collaborative team. I have a former U.S. Attorney,” said Craig, referring to Chris Graveline, director of the DPD’s Professional Standards Section.
“I’m confident in the direction we’re going now. That we are rooting out all corruption relative to the narcotics unit.”
Craig says he “could have opted to do nothing” after an FBI investigation resulted in Mosley’s indictment, but chose to launch a full-scale investigation instead, on a hunch that Mosley’s alleged misconduct wasn’t a one-time event. He’s also reassigned most of the narcotics unit and brought in new personnel, including all-new supervisors.
Craig says he’s also working with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office to root out possible wrongful convictions as a result of police misconduct. “We’re going to vigorously pursue the allegations, particularly when you talk about false information put in a warrant affidavit,” he said. “That invalidates that whole arrest, and subsequent conviction.”
Graveline says investigators have identified about a dozen cases of where that may have happened, but still have many more cases to review. Craig declined to give the number of officers suspected of potential wrongdoing so far, other than to say “We are finding things. And certainly I can tell you that some of the allegations are serious enough that some should be concerned.”
Craig says he wants to meet with the grassroots groups concerned about the department’s ability to self-police, even though he says he “can’t go into detail about every aspect of our investigation.”
“We certainly want to continue to be transparent, and reassure the community that we are rooting out corruption,” Craig said.
Those groups are demanding an independent, third-party investigation into the corruption, saying “the police cannot be trusted to investigate themselves.” They also want a list of all cases implicated in the scandal; for the prosecutor’s office to immediately stop prosecuting cases based on evidence from the narcotics unit; and a list of officers implicated in the case who are prohibited from testifying in court.