FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DETROIT – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) applauds the verdict awarding $150,000 in the case of Strickland v. City of Detroit. The jury found that the Detroit Police Department used excessive force and retaliated against African American Detroit police officer Johnny Strickland for complaining about race discrimination during a 2017 encounter with officers while Strickland was off duty and not in uniform. An 11-year veteran DPD officer at the time, Mr. Strickland was handcuffed, harassed, and humiliated by DPD officer colleagues when he accidentally arrived at an unmarked, unsecured crime scene, and then suspended after he filed a complaint.
The federal lawsuit was filed in 2018 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, with the goal of exposing and reforming racist policing practices to ensure safety for everyone in the community, including officers of color. Internal studies conducted by DPD since 2017 have revealed racial tensions within the ranks of officers, as well as racial misconduct by officers directed at members of the community. Throughout the case, the ACLU proposed reforms that the DPD refused to consider, ultimately resulting in a four-day jury trial ending in a jury verdict in Strickland’s favor.
While off duty, Mr. Strickland inadvertently entered a crime scene under investigation before it was secured by police. He identified himself as a Detroit police officer, but the officers on the scene insulted and ridiculed him. He was placed in handcuffs, which tightened to a degree that they physically injured Mr. Strickland. He was then detained without cause or justification, while his private vehicle was searched. Mr. Strickland was warned not to report the incident by a white captain who was the supervising officer on the scene, who stated: “This goes nowhere from tonight.”
Mr. Strickland filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Office within the Detroit Police Department stating what he experienced was racist and wrong. But the DPD internal affairs investigation soon turned their focus on Mr. Strickland himself, accusing him of violating department policies. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on Strickland’s behalf in 2018.
Johnny Strickland, ACLU of Michigan client and plaintiff, released this statement:
“I care very deeply about the City of Detroit, and I am especially concerned about how police treat people of color. If I, as a veteran police officer, so easily became the victim of police misconduct by my own colleagues, the average citizen doesn’t have a chance. I hope that my actions will encourage other Black officers to stand up for what's right, staying quiet only makes things worse.”
Mark P. Fancher, ACLU of Michigan Racial Justice Project staff attorney, released this statement:
“With this case we have taken a step toward the reimagination of public safety in Detroit. Thanks to Sgt. Strickland, who had the courage to speak out against wrongdoing, this case shines a light on the unfairness and injustices that affect Black police officers and the community at large. Our hope is that the City’s leaders will take a close look at what that light has revealed and act aggressively to provide the community with a whole new approach to ensuring the public’s safety and welfare.”
In addition to Fancher, ACLU of Michigan attorneys Syeda Davidson and Dan Korobkin and cooperating attorney Leonard Mungo represented the plaintiff.