DETROIT - Six Detroit police officers have been suspended with pay pending a federal investigation into a case involving towing abandoned cars, according to the Detroit Police Department.
The case is being investigated by the FBI. Formal charges are pending.
The FBI Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force confirmed there is an ongoing investigation. It's working with the DPD officer of internal affairs.
Sources told Local 4 the officers have been suspended for "conduct unbecoming of a police officer." It's a widespread problem that is happening through several precincts in the city of Detroit and involves towing, sources said.
Police officers would drive around Detroit looking for abandoned cars, sources said. They would call their friends at tow-truck companies, which would pick up the cars and take them to the owner's house.
The police officers would get $100 for finding the cars, but the tow truck company would submit a bill and collect hundreds of dollars for the tow, sources said. These instances count as insurance fraud and a kickback scheme.
Tow-truck operators were willing to pay police officers $100 per car, and the six officers were driving around looking for abandoned cars for years, sources said.
The scheme has come to an end; FBI officials said they will talk with the police officers and give them an opportunity to work with them to go after the tow-truck operators, sources said. Whether or not they cooperate could determine if they are charged criminally, sources said.
DPOA President Mark Diaz told Local 4 the towing claims don't make a lot of sense to him.
"Based on the limited information we have, it just doesn't work with the idea of our processes in place," Diaz said. He said DPD has a streamlined towing protocol that would make the alleged corruption difficult.
He also questions announcing a federal probe and suspending officers but not charging them. Could this be a federal fishing expedition to net bigger catch?
The DPOA hasn't made a determination on whether these officers will qualify for union attorneys yet.
"Anytime you have an officer accused of committing a crime, it hurts. And we want to make sure we know for certain what we're talking about," Diaz said.
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