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United States v. City of Detroit

April 19, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF DETROIT, MICHIGAN AND THE DETROIT POLICE DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Julian Abele Cook, Jr. United States District Court Judge

Honorable Julian Abele Cook, Jr.

ORDER

On March 4, 2010, the Court directed the Defendants, the City of Detroit ("City") and the Detroit Police Department ("DPD"), to respond to several questions regarding, inter alia, (1) the procedures that had been adopted by the City's Office of the Chief Investigator (OCI) for the handling of its 1,049 backlogged citizen complaints, and (2) the DPD's proposed plan to combine a new early warning system with its existing Management Awareness System ("MAS") in an effort to satisfy the demands within the Use of Force Consent Judgment. On March 17, 2010, the City tendered written responses that, in the opinion of the Court, were deficient and incomplete in many respects, as will be explained more fully below.

I. Backlog of OCI Complaints

As an initial matter, the Court is troubled by the language that was utilized by the City in describing the number of cases that had not been investigated by the OCI. It does not matter to the Court whether (1) the City identified these cases with such words as backlogged, open, active, or aged, or (2) the number of cases which remain amongst its file system without any meaningful investigation and/or resolution begins at 1,049, 928, or 598. See City's Response at 1-2. In the final analysis, the main concern of the Court is that the OCI continues to carry an unacceptably high number of complaints from Detroit citizens which have yet to be investigated and/or resolved.

Similarly, in discussing the 314 citizen complaints that were closed between January 15, 2010 and March 1, 2010, the City issued a response which fosters confusion about many of the terms associated with the findings by the OCI. In its reading of the City's response, the Court was given very little guidance about what was meant by the wording which indicated that a file had been closed because (1) the DPD personnel was "exonerated," (2) a complaint was "void," or (3) a charge was "not sustained," and/or "unfounded."

However and perhaps of most concern was the City's revelation that the OCI had unilaterally closed a number of its cases for a variety of non-administrative reasons, including but not limited to (1) the lack of a response from a complaining witness, (2) the absence of an independent source of evidence of criminality or misconduct, (3) the fact that an allegation had been made against an individual who was no longer employed by the DPD, or (4) a finding that the officer's conduct was proper. The Court regards this practice as highly problematic and agrees with the City that any of the cases, which have been administratively closed on or after November 20, 2009, must be immediately reopened and fully investigated along with the remaining other cases which were identified by the OCI as being open files as of December 15, 2009.

Therefore and in light of these and other problems, the City is directed to take the following steps in order to expeditiously clear the backlog of pending cases within the OCI:

(1) Consistent with the representations that were made at the status conference on March 31, 2010, the City must develop a set of standard and consistently uniform operating policies and procedures by which all of its cases are to be opened, investigated and closed in a manner which comports with the procedural and substantive requirements of the Use of Force Consent Judgment within a period of thirty (30) days from the date of this order. These standard policies and procedures must be developed with the input and approval of the DOJ and the Independent Monitor.

(2) The City must develop a formalized case management system through which all OCI personnel (e.g., investigators and supervisors) must process their individual and collective caseloads. This case management system must be developed within a period of thirty days (30) from the date of this order with the input and approval of the DOJ and the Independent Monitor.

(3) The City must also ensure that all of its OCI personnel (e.g., investigators and supervisors) are trained on, and thoroughly familiar with, the new standard operating polices and procedures as well as the new case management system.

(4) Within a period of forty-five (45) days from the entry of this order, the City must furnish the Independent Monitor with a detailed written plan which identifies the steps that it will undertake to (a) clear all of the 1,049 backlogged cases, and (b) address and resolve any new cases.

(5) The City must resolve all of the 1,049 of the backlogged cases within a period of ninety (90) days from the entry of this order according to the standard ...


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