Friday, March 27, 2015

Inkster Officials Pursue Damage Control Strategy As Video of Beating Prompts Protest
Holly Fournier, The Detroit News 11:56 a.m. EDT
March 26, 2015

Inkster — Authorities urged patience Thursday as an investigation is underway into the filmed beating of a motorist during an arrest in January.

"The people have a voice, they're using their voice and we've listened to their voice," Inkster City Manager Richard J. Marsh Jr. said during a press conference Thursday morning at city hall. "Action will be taken accordingly, depending on the results of the investigation."

Detroiter Floyd Dent, 57, has said he was beaten and Tasered during a traffic stop Jan. 28 in Inkster.

Police said Dent disregarded stop signs and refused to pull over, then resisted arrest and threatened them. They also said they found a bag of crack cocaine in his car.

Police Chief Vicki Yost attended Thursday's press conference alongside Marsh and members of the police department's citizen advisory board, National Christians in Action, the Inkster Ministerial Alliance and the Western Wayne County branch of the NAACP.

Yost said an investigation is underway by the Michigan State Police.

"It needs to be independent, and it needs to be thorough and it needs to be impartial," Yost said.

Dent and attorneys say he was racially profiled and officers used excessive force in January 28, 2015 arrest. This video was released by his attorney Greg Rohl.

Protesters outside the Inkster police department on Wednesday questioned the investigation due to state police presence at the traffic stop.

"Their officers were not involved in the use of force to my knowledge," Yost said Thursday. "I'm confident in their ability to conduct the investigation."

Yost said Inkster auxiliary officers also were present at the arrest, but she declined to define those officers' duties.

"There is a difference in the powers that they hold, absolutely," she said. "That's part of the investigation, and we're not going to get into any additional details at the time."

Following the press conference, Yost confirmed two officers involved in the incident are on administrative duty.

"They are not on the streets," said Yost, who declined to identify the officers.

Joseph Stephens, president of the Inkster Ministerial Alliance, urged the public to respect the investigation.

"We think that every citizen has a right to be treated fairly, but we also understand that a thorough investigation has to take place before any action is done," Stephens said at the press conference. "In the midst of all of the protests and all of the marches, an investigation still has to take place and be concluded."

Marsh praised the non-violent response of protesters unhappy with the incident.

"We found that some citizens are unhappy with the incident, yet cool heads have prevailed and that's an outstanding statement and example of the kind of citizens we have here in the city of Inkster," Marsh said.

NAACP chapter president Bishop Walter L. Starghill Jr. called the arrest footage shocking and said he would remain dedicated to keeping the public informed about the investigation.

"We have a vested interest in what goes on in the city of Inkster," he said. "We want to let everyone know that we are here working at the table to make sure the people know exactly what's going on."

Yost said Wednesday the department began investigating before Dent complained about his treatment during the arrest.

"We started an investigation before Mr. Dent made a complaint and it was self-initiated," she said. "It was initiated immediately based on the department's policy to conduct an investigation whenever a serious amount of force has been used."

The state police's findings will be presented to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, which will determine if any charges are filed, she said.

"We're encouraging everyone to wait for the results of the investigation," Yost said. "Once we get the results, we'll act accordingly."

Dent described the arrest through tears Wednesday at a press conference held by his attorney, Greg Rohl.

"They told me get on the ground, then they snatched me, threw me on the ground and started beating me," Dent said outside his attorney's law office in Novi. "(An officer) was beating me upside the head. ... While he was beating me I was trying to protect my face with my right arm. ... The officer nearly choked me to death. I told them I can't breathe. He just kept on choking me."

Dent said he was targeted because he is African-American.

Earlier Wednesday, at least two dozen demonstrators gathered outside the Inkster Police Department and 22nd District Court building to protest the incident.

Under drizzly skies, the crowd marched along the sidewalk shouting, "No justice, no peace," and "RoboCop has got to go!"

The protest was organized by the Michigan chapter of the National Action Network, led by the Rev. Charles Williams II.

"We're here for one reason: These officers need to go. They need to be fired," Williams said. "Not suspended with pay, not allowed to sit at desks and get paid by the people."

The incident has sparked cries of aggressive policing, led to calls for disbanding the department and prompted Williams to call Inkster "the new Ferguson" in reference to a recent scathing Department of Justice report that called Ferguson, Missouri's law enforcement practices racially discriminatory.

Dent originally was charged with resisting and obstructing, fleeing and eluding, and possession of cocaine, Rohl said. All charges have been dropped, except the possession charge. Rohl said the drugs were planted during the chaotic arrest.

Dent said he was offered a plea deal but he declined.

"He told me an innocent man does not plead guilty," Rohl said. "Mr. Dent, to his credit, said, 'I'm not guilty. I'm not pleading guilty. Take it to trial.'"

Dent is expected in court at 9 a.m. April 1 for an arraignment on the drug charge, Rohl said.

(313) 223-4616


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