Chief 'angry' after 'racially insensitive' Snapchat from Detroit officer who had woman's car towed

James Craig says officer has been reassigned from precinct

DETROIT – Detroit police Chief James Craig said he's not troubled, he's angry about an officer who posted a "racially insensitive" Snapchat after having a woman's car towed because of expired registration.

Craig held a news conference at 1 p.m. Thursday to address the incident.

'Racially insensitive post'

He said an 18 1/2-year veteran of the force pulled over a driver because of expired registration and made the call to tow the vehicle.

The officer had a right to make that stop, according to Craig. He said the driver wasn't happy about being stopped and towed on such a cold night.

Afterward, the officer is accused of making a Snapchat post about the woman and including the comment, "Bye, Felicia." Craig said that's a derogatory reference to Black History Month.

"I'm not going to tell you I'm troubled," Craig said. "I'm going to tell you I'm angry. This incident is absolutely not reflective (of the department). This is not acceptable."

Craig said body camera footage shows the woman was offered a ride home, but refused and walked a block in the cold and dark.

Officer reassigned, de-appointed from rank

Craig said the police officer was hired before his tenure and has a troubled past with the department. He said the officer's previous incidents would have been handled differently if he were in charge at the time.

"He has a troubling history," Craig said. "When I look at his background and the seriousness of what he was charged with, my question is, 'What did the department do?' I can't go back in time and address that issue. It's my issue now, but it does raise a lot of questions for me, especially when you look at his prior conduct."

Since the incident, the officer has been reassigned from the Sixth Precinct until the internal investigation is completed. He was also de-appointed from the rank of corporal, Craig said.

"I think after reviewing his history, without going into details of that at this point, there is a pattern, and I'm concerned about that pattern," Craig said. "That's something I'll be looking at and addressing, as well."

Craig said the officer has been with the police force for 18 1/2 years, making him a tenured employee who should know better. He is also involved with training other officers, Craig said.

The chief said his officer's rights will be respected during the investigation, but that he "absolutely" has concerns about the officer's ability to protect the community in a fair and balanced manner, which is what led to him being reassigned.

Craig said the officer will not have any contact with the public until the investigation concludes.

"That's not what we expect of our police officers," Craig said. "This officer will be held accountable for his actions."

The officer's partenr is also part of the investigation, accordin to Craig.

A majority of the Detroit Police Department was troubled by the Snapchat post, and many reached out to Craig to express their concerns, he said.

Punishment could range from a written reprimand to a suspension to termination, Craig said.

Craig called to apologize

Craig said he called the woman's mother and apologized personally for the way her daughter was treated.

"That could have been my daughter," Craig said. "It could have been my sister. It doesn't matter. It could have been anyone's sister. Not acceptable."

Craig said when an officer makes such a poor decision, it reflects poorly on the Detroit Police Department and him as the chief.

He also said the department will be paying for the towing fees. The woman's car is already available for release, according to police.

Relationship between police, community

Craig said the Detroit Police Department has done a good job maintaining trust with the community during a time when many departments across the country struggle to build that relationship.

"I'm not saying we have not had our challenges over that period, but by and large, this department has done an above-average job in fostering trust-based relationships," Craig said.

He said DPD is one of the few departments that doesn't hide from these types of issues and is transparent with the community, even when the topics are difficult.

"Of course, when these kinds of things happen, it does have a tendency to erode the trust," Craig said. "It has an impact on the entire profession."

Craig said the department is going to be very thorough in this investigation, but he wants to make sure it is done as quickly as possible, as the community demands.

"Not acceptable," Craig said. "(I'm) not troubled, not disappointed. I am angry, and I want your viewers, your listeners to know that. This is not what we expect of Detroit police officers."

Former U.S. Attorney Chris Graveline, who has been hired by the Detroit Police Department, shared Craig's thoughts on the incident.

"It's disgusting," Graveline said. "It's clearly racial in overtones. It's not what we expect from officers, and going forward, we're going to do a thorough, impartial investigation, but we intend to move very quickly on it."

You can watch Craig's full press conference in the video below.

About the Author:

Derick is a Senior Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.