Former officer sues city of Warren over alleged racial, sexual mistreatment; Mayor Fouts takes stand

Lawsuit filed in 2017 months after audio tapes were leaked

WARREN, Mich. – Warren Mayor Jim Fouts took the stand Friday in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by former police officer DeSheila Howlett, who alleges racial and sexual mistreatment during her time with the Warren Police Department.

Howlett has accused the city of Warren, the former public safety commissioner, and several officers of racial and sexual mistreatment. Tensions rose during the court proceedings on Friday, particularly when Howlett’s attorney, Leonard Mungo, questioned Fouts about his use of a racial slur.

In response, the mayor started yelling “shame on you,” and at one point, he disregarded the judge’s instruction to lower his voice while vehemently denying the allegations.

Former Warren police officer DeSheila Howlett says she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of her time with the police department. Howlett served as a Warren police officer from 2006 to 2017 and was the first Black officer to be employed by the City of Warren.

Howlett alleges that during her time with Warren police, she endured racist and sexist comments from her co-workers. She also claims that she did not receive proper backup support in a timely manner due to her gender and race.

The federal civil rights lawsuit was filed in 2017, just a few months after leaked audio tapes contained a man using offensive and racially charged language.

Fouts has consistently denied being the person heard on those tapes.

When questioned about his record on diversity in court on Friday, Fouts challenged any mayor to do what he’s done for the city. He mentioned hiring the first diversity director and said he has hired more Black people, Muslims, and women.

The mayor also asserted that he does not micromanage the police department and had multiple conversations with Howlett, during which allegations of harassment were not raised.

Howlett states that her mistreatment in the Warren Police Department has rendered her unable to continue working in law enforcement.

The jury trial will resume on Monday and is expected to conclude next week.

About the Authors:

Priya joined WDIV-Local 4 in 2013 as a reporter and fill-in anchor. Education: B.A. in Communications/Post Grad in Advanced Journalism