DETROIT – At the heart of the protests have been calls to change policing to end police brutality and while the Detroit Police Department has improved over the years, activists fighting against excessive force claim there are still serious issues within the department.
As protests continue into their third week, questions have been raised about how Detroit police use force and whether it should be changed.
Inside DPD’s guidance, less lethal force -- like tear gas or rubber bullets -- can be used to protect an officer during an arrest or stop potentially criminal behavior. It’s legal to use deadly force if an officer deems a suspect to be an imminent threat to themselves or others, or to prevent a suspect from fleeing from a violent felony.
Chokeholds of any kind are prohibited.
Most of the guidelines are up to an officer’s discretion -- including when they announce they are police and when they feel comfortable firing from a moving vehicle. Any use of force is supposed to be reported to and investigated by a supervisor.
According to the most recent data from the city of Detroit, more than 3,400 complaints were made against DPD officers. Nearly 66% of those were closed in-house. It’s those complaints and videos from the protests that have activists calling for change.
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Kenneth Reed, with the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, said what he has seen from police in the last few weeks has been troubling.
“A lot of these people were mainly peaceful, being attacked with tear gas, being pummeled like they were and the rubber bullets and everything,” Reed said. “I think it was over the top.”
He also said the protests can do some good as long as there’s follow-through and real action.
“I think if you take a more public safety approach to policing and more trainging in terms of deescalation and things of that nature, I think we’d be in a better place,” Reed said.
Local 4 reached out to the DPD for an interview on its use of force policies for several days, but as of Saturday night, they have not responded back.