By David Sole
A recent official report reveals a clear escalation of police violence against the public by the Detroit Police Department. The official report, issued February 14, 2022, is titled “Use of Force Report – 2021” and covers the period of January 1 through December 31, 2021.
The most serious Category 1 looks at incidents where “serious injury or death resulting from an altercation with a member [of the police] (e.g. hospitalization or broken bones). It also includes use of tasers, chemical spray against restrained individual, discharge of firearm, departmental canine bites and “taser probe to person’s sensitive areas or to a member of a special population.”
It is reported that compared to 2020, Category 1 events increased 24%. This dramatic increase is more troublesome since total arrests declined compared to 2020 data by 5%. When combining four Categories data (including less serious incidents) the numbers show an overall 6% increase.
Comparison of data from 11 precincts shows that six of those precincts had sharp increases in Category 1 events. For example in 2020 the 9th Precinct had 1 case involving the most serious use of violence. But in 2021 that same precinct had 8. The 11th Precinct went from 2 serious events in 2020 to 7 in 2021. Overall 5 of the precincts had no change in Category 1 events or a decrease.
Statistics don’t show the entire picture of police/community relations. On the evening of February 18 Detroit police stormed into River Rouge Park on the city’s west side. Native American organizers had convened a “sugarbush ceremony” where traditional tapping of maple trees and boiling down the collected sap was in progress.
The group had gotten a memorandum of understanding from the City of Detroit officials and a burn permit from the fire department. Nevertheless the cops forced an end to the ceremony and demanded the group leave the park which had not yet closed for the night.
Police Retaliation in Suburb
In the suburb of Hazel Park police appear to have targeted the family of Armani Sharpe. Sharpe, an autistic African American young man, had been arrested and charged by two different suburban districts for walking in his neighborhood. After months of protests the charges against Sharpe were dropped in August 2021.
On February 17, 2022 during a blinding snowstorm, a Hazel Park police car pulled Monique Jewell over. Jewell is Armani Sharpe’s mother and he was in the car. Jewell is well known in her community for having spearheaded the “Free Armani Sharpe” protests last year.
At first accused of running a stop sign, the cop forced Jewell out of her car because he said she was not fast enough producing her license and registration. She was then handcuffed and, while being pushed into the police car, the cop complained she was taking too long and he slammed the door on her leg.
Armani was ordered to walk home in the snow storm with no supervision or escort. Neighbors came out of their home and filmed much of the incident. They also intervened verbally confronting the police who ultimately released Jewell. In addition to the traffic charge of running a stop sign, Jewell is facing charges of assaulting, resisting and obstructing a police officer.
Ms. Jewell has also reported that she has received two parking tickets for parking in the “handicap” spot in front of her house. The handicap spot is specifically for her vehicle and for which she has the appropriate disabled parking permit hanging from her mirror.
Activists from the broad coalition that led to the victory in her son’s cases being dropped are preparing to mobilize in Ms. Jewell’s case as well. The charges are seen as retaliation for the charges being dropped in Armani’s cases.
State Police Brutalize Community Activist
In another case State Police arrested a Detroit community activist known as Sister Nandi. According to her, she pulled off the freeway before stopping for the police and the troopers were highly upset. They violently dragged her out of the vehicle, causing her to be injured. Sister Nandi was arrested and jailed for 72 hours, refusing her bail. Charges involved not having valid license or license plates. She is well known in Detroit and Highland Park for “Nandi’s Knowledge Café,” a bookstore, café and meeting place for many causes.