In January 2017 Detroit Police Chief James Craig was provided with the report of the Committee on Race and Equality (CORE), a special investigative committee he had established in response to complaints of discrimination within the department.  The report found that high-ranking command staff had engaged in racial discrimination, intimidation, and retaliation, that the department had a “racial problem,” and that racism was directed from command staff to the rank and file. 

Chief Craig rejected the findings of the report, however, and suspended CORE’s work. Just days later, Johnnie Strickland, an African American police officer who had been with the department for ten years, was confronted, accosted, handcuffed and detained without cause by several white officers. Officer Strickland was off-duty and inadvertently entered a suspected crime scene under investigation. Although Strickland identified himself as a police officer, one white officer continually screamed profanities in Strickland’s face and sarcastically ridiculed his tenure on the police force, calling him “stupid,” “dumb,” and an “idiot.” Another white officer purposely tightened handcuffs in order to cause injury, and still another conducted an unauthorized, unjustified K-9 search of Strickland’s vehicle.  

In August 2018, the ACLU of Michigan filed a federal lawsuit on Officer Strickland’s behalf, alleging racial discrimination, a racially hostile work environment, and retaliation. 

(Strickland v. City of Detroit; ACLU Attorneys Mark Fancher and Michael J. Steinberg; Cooperating Attorney Leonard Mungo.)

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