Detroit ain’t Mayberry. Being a cop in the Motor City means patrolling some of the toughest beats in the country. The current Chrysler campaign touts how tough the city is, and I’m guessing the creative types who filmed those slick ads flew in, did their business and got the hell out of Dodge. But the Detroit PD has long had a reputation as being one of the worst in the country. So bad that it’s been under federal oversight since 2003. And no one did more to attract the feds’ attention that Sgt. Eugene Brown…
No, the former mall cop didn’t bring in the feds single handedly. The DPD had already weathered a storm of lawsuits for everything from prisoner maltreatment, excessive force, false arrests, illegal detentions and unconstitutional conditions of confinement.
But Sgt. Brown became the poster boy for the excesses of the force when his record was highlighted in a 2000 Detroit Free Press series. Most cops can go through a career without ever pulling the trigger. Brown managed to be involved in nine shootings between 1995 and 2000.
Sgt. Shoot-em-up’s adventures resulted in three fatalities. And he seemed to be the victim of some defective weapons, too. How else do you ‘splain two “accidental” discharges in such a short time? Oh, and he’s also wrecked a couple of squad cars along the way.
Again, Detroit’s as tough as it gets. Where else (outside of The Terminator) have you seen something like this? But Brown’s cost the city millions of dollars in settlements and legal fees. Not to mention, to a large extent, control of their own police department. So with that kind of stellar record, you’d think he’d have been fired long ago, right?
Well no, you’d be wrong. All of the incidents were investigated and found to be “justified.” Even the district attorney said that, while there were some close calls, nothing reached the level where they could bring charges against him.
Oh, and the Detroit police union named him officer of the year in 1997. That was after five shooting incidents including two fatalities and one negligent discharge.
But you only have to hit the DPD over the head nine times to get their attention. They got Brown off the street and confined him to a desk job, where he’s been since 2000. Not that any of that was enough to prevent him from being promoted to sergeant in 2004.
So why is he news now? Because a police trial board recommended in December that Brown be fired. Chief Ralph Godbee approved the firing in April. It took him four months to mull that one over. Brown’s fighting the dismissal in arbitration and he’s (finally) had his gun taken away.
What did they fire him for? Was it the shootings? The recklessness? The cost? The embarrassment? No, they fired Brown for overtime fraud. Remember how they got Al Capone for tax evasion instead of murder or racketeering? Same principle. Who says the wheels of justice in Detroit grind slowly?