Research About Policing

A common justification for police murders of civilians is the "split second" defense -- that officers must make split second decisions in life-or-death situations. This 2019 forensic analysis of the police murder of Harith Augustus reveals the many dimensions of police violence, and the faults in the "split second" defense.

Researchers challenge the idea that the "split second" decision can be divorced from its context, arguing that social, political, and racial factors play an inherent role in every officer's choice to use lethal force. By re-incorporating context into the officer's actions and the context of the police murder, this report provides an important framework to re-visit the Dearborn police murders of Janet Wilson, Kevin Matthews, Ernest Griglen, and other victims not yet named.

The "split-second" defense is a bad-faith argument that justifies police violence and lethality by artificially stripping away relevant and vital factors and context.

In 2017, researchers identified that reductions in "proactive policing" practices actually reduced the rates of serious crimes.

According to the researchers "citizens are arrested, unauthorized markets are disrupted, and people lose their jobs, all of which create more localized stress on individuals already living on the edge" (Sullivan & O'Keefe, 2017, p. 730).

The stated purpose of Dearborn Police's Border Crimes Initiative Team is "to deter crime through high visibility patrols, proactive traffic enforcement, street investigations, and arrests. This strategy is emphasized in the belief that criminals are highly mobile and crimes can be prevented through enforcement of traffic laws and the arrests that result from such enforcement" (City of Dearborn Department of the Police Annual Report, 2019, p. 35).

The Border Crimes Initiative Team actively harms Dearborn residents, and unfairly targets our Black neighbors from Detroit.

In 2019, researchers identified that Police use of force is the sixth leading cause of death for Black men.

According to the researchers "racially unequal exposure to the risk of state violence has profound consequences for public health, democracy, and racial stratification" (Edwards, Lee, & Esposito, 2019, p. 16796).

In Dearborn, police are trained in Use of Force (City of Dearborn Department of the Police Annual Report, 2019, p. 20). The International Association of Police Chiefs defines the use of force as "that amount of effort required by police to compel compliance from an unwilling subject." (IACP, 2001, p. 1).

Use of Force is problematic because it is defined relative to the officer's perception of compliance. In 2015, Dearborn Police officers perceived Kevin Matthews as noncompliant, and quickly escalated to the use of deadly force.

Use of Force harms Dearborn residents and visitors, and has resulted in Dearborn PD murdering Black people.

Data collected for this 2015 report indicate that individuals living with untreated mental illness are significantly overrepresented in cases of fatal police shootings.

According to the researchers, “the transfer of responsibility for persons with mental illness from mental health professionals to law enforcement officers is both illogical and unfair and harms both the patients and the officers.” (Fuller, Lamb, Biasotti, & Snook, 2015, p. 5).

In 2015 Dearborn Police officers murdered Kevin Matthews. In 2016 Dearborn Police officers murdered Janet Wilson. Both individuals were Black and living with mental illness. When Ali Beydoun had a panic attack after being approached by Dearborn Police while fixing the chain on his bicycle, the officer escalated to using excessive force within minutes.

Overfunding Dearborn's Police Department prevents resources from being used towards mental health care and increases the likelihood that interactions between Dearborn Police and our community will result in violence towards our community members.

Researchers documented incidents of white callers contacting law enforcement to report Black persons engaged in mundane activities. This frequently results in police resources being weaponized against Black individuals.

According to the researchers, "racialized police calls function to expose innocent Black individuals to increased interaction with law enforcement and the associated emotional, psychological, and physiological ill-effects. Particularly pernicious harms also arise when persons weaponize the police in order to target another because of their race." (McNamarah, 2019, p. 344)

More than half of the individuals arrested by Dearborn Police in 2011-2012 were Black, despite the fact that less than 4% of the city's population is Black.

Dearborn's Chief of Police argues that this is because the police are summoned by security at Fairlane Towncenter. Dearborn Police are complicit in allowing themselves to become a weaponized tool used by prejudiced mall staff and store owners. Janet Wilson's murder occurred when Dearborn Police were summoned by Fairlane mall security.

In a briefing published in 2017, researchers identified that increases in incarceration are not associated with violent crime, and increased rates of incarceration may cause increased crime rates.

According to the briefing, "high rates of imprisonment break down the social and family bonds that guide individuals away from crime, remove adults who would otherwise nurture children, deprive communities of income, reduce future income potential, and engender a deep resentment toward the legal system; thus, as high incarceration becomes concentrated in certain neighborhoods, any potential public safety benefits are outweighed by the disruption to families and social groups that would help keep crime rates low" (Vera, 2017, p. 2).

In 2019 the Dearborn police reported the detention of 4,488 individuals in jails, with another 456 detained for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (City of Dearborn Department of Police Annual Report, 2019, p. 39). These incarceration practices actively make our community less safe.

Segregation in Dearborn is De Jure, Not De Facto

In a 2014 publication, the Economic Policy Institute breaks down the difference between de facto segregation and de jure segregation. Racial segregation between Dearborn, Inkster, and Detroit is not an accident of individual economic decisions. Racially motivated policies established, enforced, and continue to maintain segregation in Dearborn today.

According to the publication "the historical record demonstrates that residential segregation is “de jure,” resulting from racially-motivated and explicit public policy whose effects endure to the present." The authors describe multiple policy types create de jure segregation including ordinances enacted at the local level: purposeful destruction of thriving Black neighborhoods to build highways, government sanctioned mob violence against Black families, and the establishment of home owners associations which exclude residents of color.

The metro Detroit region, and Dearborn in particular has seen these policies in place. This has included: