Saturday, July 25, 2009

DCAPB Says "No Private Deals" on Police Monitor Replacement


CONTACT: Ron Scott
313 399 7345

Coalition Says "No Private Deals" on Monitor Replacement

7/25/09--The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality has learned of the resignation of Sheryl Robinson Wood as Independent Monitor for the Federal Consent Decree against the Detroit Police Department. Information has been circulated that Ms. Wood resigned because of an inappropriate relationship with former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Nonetheless, the following is clear:

1-Ms. Wood stated in a status conference in Judge Julian Cook's courtroom last week that only 39% of the 110 items that the city is required to meet relative to use of force and issues of confinement have been met since the Consent Decrees were issued six years ago.

2-Nearly $400 million has been paid out by the City of Detroit in wrongful death and police misconduct suits over the last ten years.

The culture of the Detroit Police Department continues to produce even more complaints of brutality each year. While the department is making progress in the issues around jails, citizens who are arrested are driven around from district to district, harassed, and sometimes beaten before they are booked. Some citizens who are brutalized do not even make the statistical charts because they are never booked, but instead "let out the back door."

The Bing Administration has expressed an interest in "getting out of" the Consent Decrees. The Coalition wishes to make abundantly clear to the Mayor that it was the last three city administrations who precipitated and allowed the continuance of brutality against citizens. They failed to force the DPD to fully comply with the mandates of the Consent Decrees.

The lack of money is no excuse for failing to comply. If the city had fully complied, the money saved in lawsuits and settlements would have erased the current budget deficit. Citizens are tired of being abused and disrespected by an increasingly militaristic force. Even current Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans has referred to his officers as "soldiers." This culture must be transformed before we can say with confidence that the goals of the Consent Decrees have been met.

The Coalition wants to clearly state to Judge Cook that much of the responsibility falls on him to expedite the realization of the goals of the Consent Decrees. The process to find a replacement for Ms. Wood must involve the community, and must be transparent. Thus far, the court has given less than one week to find a replacement. We are asking the Justice Department to extend the search period; one week reeks of suspicion as to the process and is simply not long enough.

Further, the City of Detroit is the defendant in this case. As such, it is completely inappropriate for them to be involved in "working with the Justice Department" to select a new monitor. When has the defendant determined its investigator?

This resignation has only heightened our resolve to make sure that there will be no "deal" to get Detroit out of hot water on this, and further jeopardize the lives of citizens.

July 25, 2009

Another jolt for Detroiters


The Department of Justice dropped another bomb on the scandal-plagued city of Detroit this week by alerting a federal judge that his court-appointed monitor overseeing Detroit Police Department reforms had “meetings of a personal nature” with former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

The episode came to light Friday when U.S. District Judge Julian Cook issued an order that announced Sheryl Robinson Wood’s resignation but raised more questions than it answered. Cook didn’t describe the nature of the meetings, when they occurred, whether they affected Wood’s performance or whether he demanded she resign.

The order said Wood “engaged in conduct which was totally inconsistent with the terms and conditions of the two consent judgments.”

Cook said she had “engaged in undisclosed communications, as well as meetings of a personal nature” with Kilpatrick “during the term of the consent judgments, which included inappropriate discussions with him about this lawsuit.”

The order said Cook reviewed the documents Wednesday at a status conference involving the Justice Department and the city. Afterward, he telephoned Wood to confront her about the documents and she resigned.

The Detroit Police Department has been under federal oversight since 2003, when the city signed two agreements to avert a lawsuit with the Justice Department’s civil rights division over questionable shootings of civilians, illegal dragnet arrests and inhumane treatment of prisoners. The department has fulfilled less than 40% of the reforms.

Efforts to change cops doubted in light of monitor's conduct

City officials and community activists were stunned Friday by revelations that the court-appointed monitor overseeing reforms at the Detroit Police Department had engaged in improper personal meetings with former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

"Wow. Wow. Wow. Good Lord. Oh, my God," Ron Scott of the Detroit Coalition of Police Brutality exclaimed Friday when told that Sheryl Robinson Wood had resigned after the Justice Department gave text messages or e-mails about the meetings to U.S. District Judge Julian Abele Cook Jr., who is presiding over the lagging six-year reform effort.

The Justice Department obtained the records as part of its ongoing investigation of city corruption. It remains unclear where the material originated.

Scott said he has long been concerned about Wood's lack of aggressiveness in forcing the department to adopt reforms to reduce shootings of civilians and eliminate illegal dragnet arrests of homicide witnesses and mistreatment of prisoners in police lockups. He said he wonders whether her relationship with Kilpatrick delayed the reform effort.

Detroit City Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel called the disclosures part of a "cascading cancer" of scandals confronting the city and said she worries about the $10 million the city has spent under Wood's supervision since 2003 to try to fix the troubled department.

"Is there any way we can recover any of the money we spent?" she said. "Did Kilpatrick make deals with Ms. Robinson Wood to drag this thing out? It calls into question the fundamental legitimacy of the monitoring of the Police Department that has faced the same set of problems for the past 40 years."

Cockrel said Friday's disclosure likely will come up in Monday's closed-door City Council meeting to discuss the reform effort and the federal consent decrees that brought them about.

Wood, a lawyer, did not respond Friday afternoon to messages left at her Baltimore office or on her personal cell phone. It remains unclear whether her conduct with Kilpatrick might result in professional misconduct charges or other discipline.

Justice Department spokesman Alejandro Miyar said: "We agree with the court's decision and will move forward in a positive manner to select a new monitor."

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said in a statement: "The revelation about the court-appointed monitor is disappointing, and her resignation is appropriate. As instructed by Judge Cook, we will work with the Justice Department in selecting a new monitor and remain dedicated to fulfilling the requirements of the consent decrees."

The developments took Kilpatrick's lawyer James Thomas by surprise.

"We have no knowledge or understanding of anything related to Judge Cook's order," he said. "We will review the order. But at this point we don't have enough information to make a meaningful comment."

Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, declined to comment when asked if her office supplied text messages to the feds from the prosecution last year of Kilpatrick and his former aide Christine Beatty.

Cook issued an order Friday saying that he had accepted Wood's resignation and suspended all court monitoring of the department until a new monitor can be found. He wants the Justice Department and the city to submit prospective interim replacements by July 31.

The circumstances of Wood's departure -- with allegations of an inappropriate relationship -- are reminiscent of some of the more riveting turns in the text message scandal, which ended Kilpatrick's political career and landed him in jail.

That scandal exploded in January 2008 when the Free Press published excerpts of text messages that showed Kilpatrick and Beatty had lied at a police whistle-blower trial when they denied a sexual affair.

Subsequent text messages, released by Worthy in October, showed that Kilpatrick, who is married, also was engaged in cross-country rendezvous with three women in addition to Beatty.

Since the text message scandal broke, the Justice Department has indicted or accepted guilty pleas from several former and current city officials, including ex-Councilwoman Monica Conyers, in a wide-ranging bribery scandal involving city contracts.

At a hearing earlier this month, Cook said the city's progress in correcting Police Department problems was unacceptable. After six years, the department has fulfilled only 39% of the reforms it had agreed to carry out.

Scott, of the police watchdog group, said he hopes Cook appoints a replacement who forces the department to comply with the consent decrees and that Cook finally will force the department to comply.

Contact DAVID ASHENFELTER: Staff writers Amber Hunt and Todd Spangler contributed to this report.

Additional Facts
Sheryl Robinson Wood

She was a former assistant district attorney in New York and a former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., before joining Kroll, a New York-based international risk assessment firm. She left Kroll to join Venable LLP, a law firm in Baltimore, where she is a partner in the Securities and Exchange Commission and white-collar defense practice group.

She was appointed monitor overseeing the court-mandated Detroit Police reforms in 2003. She kept the position even after she left Kroll for Venable. The team of monitors is paid $183,680 a month.

She is a graduate of Howard University and the George Washington University National Law Center.

As monitor, she often was criticized by police personnel who said she did not fully appreciate their situation. At a hearing a week ago, she told U.S. District Judge Julian Abele Cook Jr. that there was a "slow realization" by Detroit Police that the department would have to change to meet the federal standards -- rather than having the standards changed to match its way of doing things.

"As long as you have the right guidance and training and mentor, you can do the job as well as anyone else, especially if you get the right people around you," she said as she took on the monitor job in 2003.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Police monitor had 'personal' meetings with Kilpatrick

Jim Lynch / The Detroit News

Detroit -- The woman charged with monitoring the Detroit Police Department's adherence to a 2003 agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice has submitted her resignation because of her interactions with former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Sheryl L. Robinson Wood submitted her resignation to U.S. District Judge Julian Abele Cook Jr. Thursday evening.

Detroit's Police Department has been under federal supervision for six years after a Justice Department investigation found instances of civil rights violations via police brutality, locking up homicide witnesses and keeping unsafe holding cells where prisoners died. An agreement struck between the city and federal investigators called for sweeping changes in the department, and Wood was put in place to ensure they took effect.

But in a court order finalizing the resignation, Cook wrote that Wood "had engaged in conduct which was totally inconsistent with the terms and conditions of the two consent judgments in this litigation."

Cook's order goes on to detail the nature of that conduct.

"It has now become readily apparent to the court that (Wood) had engaged in undisclosed communications, as well as meetings of a personal nature, with the former City of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick during the term of the consent judgments, which included inappropriate discussions with him about this lawsuit."

Late Friday, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's office issued a statement on Wood's resignation. "The revelation about the court-appointed monitor is disappointing, and her resignation is appropriate," the statement reads.

"As instructed by Judge Cook, we will work with the Justice Department in selecting a new monitor, and remain dedicated to fulfilling the requirements of the consent decrees."

Wood could not be reached for comment Friday evening. Attorneys for Kilpatrick did not return phone calls Friday night. Cook's order calls for the immediate suspension of monitoring activities in the case.

Deputy Mayor Saul Green -- a former U.S. attorney in Detroit -- is scheduled to brief members of the Detroit City Council on Monday afternoon of the circumstances that led to Wood's departure as monitor.

When reached by phone Friday evening, Green declined to give details on the matter.

Detroit City Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel expressed disgust over the latest development.

"I once said that the Kilpatrick administration was rotten to the core. They clearly have a reeking core," she said Friday.

Cockrel said it raised questions about whether Wood had been improperly influenced when she made determinations about the Police Department's progress under the court's eye.

"Has there been anything compromised in terms of the actual consent decree findings?" she said. " Has any of the substance or any of the required changes -- were they influenced positively or negatively by the relationship?"

William Goodman, an attorney who has sued the city over police misconduct, said he was shocked.

"I have had, personally, some questions on why it was taking so long for the monitor to achieve compliance," said Goodman, who attended the last hearing called by Cook. "I am absolutely stunned.

"It's really very sad. What should have been a very enabling process ... has become a scandal and disgrace."

The city has paid Wood's firm more than $10 million in monitoring fees over the past six years.

Goodman said the city should demand the money be returned by Wood and the private company she works for, Kroll Associates, calling Wood's behavior "unethical and outrageous."

"They have obtained money to engage in an arms-length process and gotten much closer than an arms-length process and have benefited from it," Goodman said.

On July 9, Wood's firm received $187,338 from the city of Detroit for the monthly payment ending June 17.

During a recent court hearing called by Cook, he harshly criticized the Police Department's performance in living up to the terms of its agreement.

"I have called this open session of the court because of my extreme displeasure with the progress that has been made," he said. Cook added that the department had met only 39 percent of its compliance goals.

At that time, Wood reported some progress made by the city, including: witnesses no longer being arrested without court approval, reductions in jailhouse deaths and improved officer training.

Staff Writers Christine MacDonald, David Shepardson and Catherine Jun contributed. Staff Writers Christine MacDonald, David Shepardson and Catherine Jun contributed.

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