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Detroit Free Press examines how corrupt police officers in Michigan stay on the job

William Melendez spent 14 months in prison for beating a motorist during a traffic stop. (WDIV)
William Melendez spent 14 months in prison for beating a motorist during a traffic stop. (WDIV)

DETROIT – The Detroit Free Press' Jim Schaefer and Gina Kaufman recently released findings from an investigation into how corrupt police officers in Michigan stay on the force. 

The report "How problem cops stay on Michigan's streets" focuses on several local instances of police officers staying in law enforcement despite criminal histories and corrupt conduct. They point out specific cases in Highland Park and, most notably, the case of former Inkster police officer William Melendez. 

Melendez spent time in prison for beating motorist Floyd Dent during a traffic stop in January 2015. The Local 4 Defenders were first to obtain and report the police dashcam video. During the investigation, Local 4's Kevin Dietz found Melendez's checkered past: 

Before Melendez was an Inkster officer, he worked in Detroit. He left the Detroit Police Department after multiple lawsuits and a federal indictment were filed against him for roughing up citizens and tampering with evidence.

Melendez tried to get a job at the Oakland County Sheriff's Office, but a background check raised multiple red flags. A short time later, Melendez was hired in Highland Park and Inkster as a police officer.

Read more here.

The Free Press investigation also used the case of Highland Park police Sgt. Ronald Dupuis as an example. Dupuis and a Grosse Pointe Park police officer were recorded on video arresting a carjacking suspect on Jan. 12, 2015. The video shows the officers punching and kicking the suspect as he lay face down on a sidewalk.

The officers did not face any charges.

The Free Press report claims this problem in Michigan is part of a larger national problem of corrupt police officers staying in law enforcement.

Oakland County sheriff believes bad cops can move easily between departments

The Local 4 Defenders spoke with Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard last month who said it's common for police officers who were fired or forced out of one Metro Detroit department to end up employed in another department nearby. 

"Absolutely, it's common," Bouchard said. "It's especially common in certain kinds of communities that may be financially stressed. Where they don't maybe have the resources to do some of the backgrounds."

Bouchard supports a new Senate bill that would force police agencies to create and keep records of why each police officer left, and would make departments immune from civil lawsuits for sharing the information.

READ MORE: Bad officers let go due to misconduct moving easily to new departments, sheriff says


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