In 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, Johnny 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 2018 the ACLU of Michigan filed a federal lawsuit on Officer Strickland’s behalf, alleging racial discrimination, a racially hostile work environment, and retaliation. As part of our discovery in the case, the court ordered Chief Craig to sit for a deposition. In November 2019 Judge Nancy Edmunds dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that there was not enough evidence of discrimination, racial hostility, and retaliation to proceed with the case. We are appealing to the Sixth Circuit.
(Strickland v. City of Detroit; ACLU Attorneys Mark P. Fancher, Michael J. Steinberg and Dan Korobkin; Cooperating Attorney Leonard Mungo.)