The civil rights organization is calling for the investigation to bring about police reform, including training, transparency, and accountability.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TAYLOR, Mich. – Today the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), urging its Civil Rights Division to immediately investigate the Taylor Police Department’s (TPD) history of police brutality and use of excessive force. The filing references 20 incidents of violence by TPD officers, many of which raise concerns about the possibility of racial bias. A federal investigation is necessary to spur fundamental changes concerning the police department’s culture and personnel, as well as the adoption of much needed policing reforms.
“A new culture and a new vision of public safety are needed for the Taylor Police Department,” said Mark P. Fancher, ACLU of Michigan’s Racial Justice Project staff attorney. “For years, brutality and excessive force have been embedded in the Taylor Police Department’s culture, and too many of the officers have behaved as if they are an occupying army in a war zone. No one should have to live in fear of the very people who are supposed to protect and serve them. That’s why we call on the Department of Justice to investigate and do what it can to eliminate violence, escalation of tensions, and racially biased policing.”
The complaint also details how TPD and City of Taylor fend off potential lawsuits by bringing charges against victims, and subsequently offering to drop the charges in exchange for the victim agreeing not to sue the department. Some of the documented incidents include:
- Imani Ringgold-D'Abell, who is Black, sued the TPD last month for alleged excessive force. In 2019, as many as a half dozen officers converged on Mr. Ringgold-D’Abell when he was pulled over in Taylor. When police ordered him from his car, he asked why, and was met with violence while his three-year-old daughter and girlfriend watched in horror from the car. Officers pulled him from the car, held him face down, and tased him at least three times. Officers say they pulled him over for speeding and that he did not have his driver's license or proof of insurance. Following the incident, Mr. Ringgold-D’Abell faced several charges, including interference with police authority. He was told the charges would be dropped if he signed a waiver agreeing not to sue the department. He refused.
- Brendan Morgan, who is also Black, was pulled over in April 2020, in connection with an alleged domestic disturbance. When he exited the vehicle, several officers swarmed, pushed him to the ground, beat, and tased him. All of this was captured on video, including Morgan screaming in pain, and one officer approaching him and saying, “Welcome to Taylor.” Morgan was charged with fleeing and obstructing, but when a judge reviewed the incident, both charges were dismissed.
- Joseph Rolka, a white minor in 2015, was apprehended by TPD when riding a dirt bike then tased multiple times, cursed at, beaten, and handcuffed. Rolka’s mother found him handcuffed to a hospital bed covered in blood, suffering a fractured jaw, black eye, closed head injury, and severe cut on his arm.
- Videos, from bystanders and police dash-cams, also show a sharp contrast in how TPD officers’ tone and demeanor differ while confronting people of different races:
- Officers showed constant restraint toward an uncooperative white man openly carrying an assault rifle in Taylor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3KX8HNE504
- However, when TPD officers pulled over Calvin Jones, a 26-year-old Black motorist in April 2016, officers smashed his window, dragged him out of his car, and then held Jones in a chokehold until Jones says he lost consciousness. This happened after Jones questioned why the officer wanted his ID when he was pulled over: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbBFaWzMHAQ
- This WXYZ-TV news report shows TPD officers’ abusive treatment of Mr. Morgan, which is detailed above. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xsGMRwQbJw
“Our objective is to put leadership in Taylor in a position where it has no alternative to making fundamental changes in the police department, and that such changes will ensure that law enforcement is not only bias-free, transparent and accountable, but also suited to the actual needs of the city,” Fancher said. “Taylor needs a department of responsible, skilled professionals who are equipped to deal with not only violent crime, but also other situations like mental health crises, drug emergencies and community disputes. We want a new reality, where when police officers say, ‘Welcome to Taylor,’ they actually do all they can to ensure all people are treated with dignity, respect, and are welcome.”
Today’s complaint follows the ACLU’s 2017 letter to the TPD leadership, urging the department to implement de-escalation training and policy changes after the unnecessarily violent arrest of Calvin Jones, including a chokehold of Mr. Jones that he says made him lose consciousness. In response, the city’s attorney sent a letter attempting to justify the actions of the involved officers.
Importantly, while there is longstanding documentation of violent TPD misconduct, the purpose of this complaint is to spark policy and cultural change in the police department. The ACLU believes that modern and progressive reform for TPD requires re-envisioning what public safety looks like for the city, including:
- adopting de-escalation policies that require alternatives to conflict, de-emphasize weapons, and limit use of force;
- diversifying the TPD police force (TPD hired its first Black officer in 2012);
- training and implementing a mental health response team dedicated to responding to medical, mental health, disability related, and behavioral or social needs;
- creating a Citizen Oversight Commission, that represents communities impacted by police, and makes recommendations on enhancing cultural awareness and public safety in Taylor; and, among other recommendations;
- developing a clear policy that considers an officer’s level of bias throughout their training and employment.
Watch the press conference today at 10:30 a.m. live-streamed on the ACLU of Michigan Facebook page.
The ACLU published a video that compiles the recent incidents of abuse by the TPD for the first time, which is available here: https://youtu.be/CoHBbMCzVX4