Will law enforcement members protect one another in an investigation of a fellow law enforcement officer? That is an age old question and one that is currently being confronted in an investigation of a Detroit teen who was killed by a state police officer while riding an ATV. As revealed by The Detroit News in its article of today, ATV Article in Detroit News, one of the issues that is being investigated is whether a Sergeant that responded to at the scene of the incident discarded evidence in the case. Rockind Law is not making any allegation of impropriety but the question is being asked, at least by The Detroit News. Here is a portion article drawing attention to this issue:
Meanwhile, Detroit police are investigating a state police sergeant who allegedly discarded evidence from the scene, three Detroit police sources involved in the case told The Detroit News.
Before Detroit and state police launched separate criminal investigations into Damon Grimes’ Aug. 26 death, the sergeant, a supervisor who had responded to the scene, collected one of the stun gun’s wires and prongs and later threw them into a trash can at a state police post, the sources said.
Investigators are trying to determine whether the sergeant was trying to cover up evidence, or was simply being careless by throwing the wire away, the sources said. The other wire used in the incident was left at the scene and taken into evidence, the sources said.
Detroit police detectives plan to submit warrant requests to prosecutors seeking charges against the sergeant, the driver of the state police cruiser and the passenger who deployed the stun gun, the sources said.
Typically, the state police are called in to investigate cases in which other police departments are conflicted due to a member’s use of force. They are called in to provide objectivity and a fresh set of unbiased eyes in the investigation. Here, however, the question that the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office will undoubtedly ask is why, when one its own officers used force and was under investigation, did a fellow member of the state police get involved.
It is a question that Rockind Law and Neil Rockind asked in a similar situation in a recent jury trial in Oakland County. In the case of the State of Michigan vs Charles Warren, a/k/a the Trailer and Trooper Chad Wolf case in which Warrant was acquitted of any criminal wrongdoing related to the death of Trooper Wolf, Rockind raised this issue during the trial with the lead investigator and state’s expert, both members of the Michigan State Police. Rockind queried why, if the MSP are called into investigate other police department’s use of force due to the potential conflict of interest, the MSP would investigate its own cases? Were they above the human emotion of being conflicted? Where they above the human emotion of revenge? Of course not yet they persist in conducting the investigation.
Rockind Law cannot say and is not saying that there was any impropriety in the events that took place in Detroit, with the ATV death investigation or with the Sergeant being involved at the scene. However, The Detroit News has highlighted this case and the investigation by the Detroit Police and Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and that investigation raises additional questions that may be worth answering.
When someone’s liberty and life are on the line, an independent investigation is necessary and demanded. Anything less demeans the value of the consequences of the investigation. If the MSP involves itself in conflict of interest situations, shouldn’t the MSP disqualify itself in conflict of interest situations with its own officers. The answer seems obvious to us. How about you?