The Historic Context of Policing in Dearborn
We are seeking to understand the full historic context of racism and policing in Dearborn. This information should not be considered comprehensive, but may serve as a jumping off point for further investigation.
Racism in Dearborn Overview
Dearborn was segregated by design, a status that was expressly upheld by leadership:
Dearborn was originally established as a white settlement, designated by Henry Ford as a community for his white workers.
Dearborn’s levels of policing trace back to our city’s segregationist roots. Police during this time were expressly instructed to harass Black families.
Up through 1948, it was standard practice for homes in Dearborn to incorporate racial housing covenants in their property deeds to prevent the homes from being sold to anyone who wasn't white.
In 1963, 400 Dearborn residents rioted because they thought a house in Dearborn had been sold to a Black family. The police were present but did not intervene.
The 1967 uprising in Detroit informs current attitudes towards policing, safety, and Dearborn’s relationship to our neighbors to our east. Former Mayor Orville Hubbard instructed Police officers to shoot looters on sight. Read more about the comparison between the response to the events of 1963 and 1967.
In 1971 Dearborn residents fought against integrative bussing programs, and were part of a regional movement to prevent school integration in Michigan.
Dearborn remains segregated to this day:
Despite its proximity to Detroit, only 4% of Dearborn’s residents identify as Black or African American.
Despite this small percentage of Black residents, 40% of individuals pulled over by Dearborn police in 2011 were Black
Anti-Black groups in Dearborn have used government action to restrict access to Dearborn, perpetuating segregation through legal mechanisms:
In 1986 a petition-initiated ballot measure was passed and approved by the Dearborn electorate to restrict use of Dearborn Parks to Dearborn residents. This move was identified by many groups as an attempt to prevent Black visitors restricted to spending money in Dearborn.
In 2004 a petition-initiated ballot measure was passed and approved by Dearborn electorate to mandate a minimum staffing for Dearborn's police department.
In 2016 Liv Lounge's liquor license was revoked shortly after the venue began to attract a primarily Black clientele. Attorneys suspect that the move was racially motivated.
Anti-Black and anti-Arab violence is perpetuated in Dearborn by authorities:
In 1990, Dearborn Police officers brutalized 13 Arab students who were celebrating their graduation from Fordson.
June 22, 2000 Dennis Richardson, a private security guard at Fairlane Mall, murdered Frederick Finley by strangulation over allegations that Finley's daughter had stolen a bracelet worth $4.
Dearborn police officers have murdered unarmed civilians, committed acts of brutality, and targeted civilians of color. These include the murder of two unarmed Black civilians, Kevin Matthews and Janet Wilson and the assault of Ali Beydoun.
Police in Dearborn are operating in ways that have been sanctioned by Dearborn officials:
In 2011, Dearborn City Council voted down a proposal to create a ballot measure that would have asked residents to vote on removing the minimum staffing provision from the City's Charter. This decision resulted in increased taxes and reduced community services.
Racism is embedded in the culture of Dearborn Police. Dearborn’s police officers have spoken out against:
Policies that reduced use of TASERs
Accepting new officers of MENA (Middle Eastern or North African) descent
The arraignment of the officers who killed Kevin Matthews and Janet Wilson by Detroit Police
The decision of the Police Chief not to arrest or investigate Black Lives Matter protesters