Detroit: Bing nominates convicted murderer for police board
Just what is the world coming to when the mayor of Detroit thinks its a good idea to appoint a former convict who was guilty of second-degree murder to a police board, and this same board has the authority to set department policy! Are you kidding me? And that the mayor thinks this is a positive thing just boggles the mind. Hey! Mr Mayor – why not just go down to the local jail and round up some of those fine citizens (or illegals) to help you set police policy! Bet they’d do a fine job. Anarchy US style, here we come.
Detroit — Some police officers are furious that Mayor Dave Bing wants to nominate a convicted murderer to serve on a board that metes out discipline to cops and sets department policy.
Others argue Raphael B. Johnson, who served 12 years in prison for second-degree murder and is now a motivational speaker, is an inspiration and would be a good fit for the unpaid, four-member Board of Police Commissioners.
“We can’t ignore the substantial number of ex-offenders in Detroit who are trying to contribute in our community,” Deputy Mayor Saul Green said in a statement. “Raphael Johnson is an example of someone who has made the most of a second opportunity. He can play an important role in strengthening our connection to the community to better address public safety.”
Bing has said he wants to put Johnson on the panel, but has not formally submitted the nomination to the City Council, said mayoral spokesman Dan Lijana.
Some, including several officers who did not want to be quoted, fearing reprisal from the Mayor’s Office, say the nomination plan sends a bad message.
“I’ve gotten more e-mails and phone calls about this issue than anything else since I’ve been on the council — all of it negative,” said City Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown, a former Detroit Police officer. “I have serious concerns, because the board sets policy for the Police Department.”
Johnson, 35, was convicted of second-degree murder in 1992. When he was 17, he got into a fight at a party, retrieved a handgun from a friend’s car and fatally shot Johnny Havard, who was not involved in the fight. Johnson ran for City Council last year, advanced past the primary and lost in the general election.
He argued that nothing in the City Charter says board members must have clean criminal records.
“It’s not set up for someone who aspires to be a police officer; it was set up for civilians,” said Johnson.
Johnson said he has paid for the crime. “What are the officers afraid of? I was 17 years old (when the crime was committed) — does that mean I’m marked for life? I’ve paid my dues; how long do you want me to suffer?”
Detroit Police Officer Ronald Griffin, whose father, the Rev. Ronald L. Griffin, formerly served as chairman of the board, said Johnson would make a good commissioner.
“When I was working in the Eastern District, we were doing youth crime intervention programs, and he was right there with us,” Griffin said. “He worked just as hard as any officer. He has a lot of respect in the community because he’s trying to get the youth on the right track. There are a lot of people who don’t have criminal records who have disappointed us.”
Since he was released from prison in 2004, Johnson has appeared on national television as a motivational speaker. He also led the search last year for a serial rapist on the city’s east side; his efforts were praised by former Police Chief Warren Evans.
“A lot of citizens in this city have been convicted of crimes,” Johnson said. “If people want to deal only with people who have never been arrested, they should move to Utah. I think I could bridge the gap of mistrust between the community and the Police Department.”
The City Council must approve mayoral appointments to the board, which establishes the department’s policies, rules and regulations, approves its budget and serves as the final appellate authority for officer discipline.
The Rev. Jerome Warfield, chairman of the board, said he has heard that some have problems with the plan for Johnson’s nomination. But Warfield said approving or disapproving mayoral appointments is outside his purview.
“I understand the controversy,” Warfield said. “But our job is to accept whoever is brought onto the board and work with them.”
Retired Detroit Police Officer David Malhalab said Johnson should be allowed to get on with his life, but there are “more than enough (other) qualified people to fill that position.”
“He made a mistake and shouldn’t be permanently scarred by it — but at the same time, there are certain things he shouldn’t be allowed to participate in because he committed a heinous crime,” Malhalab said. The position was left vacant when the term of former board Chairman Mohamed Okdie expired July 1.