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Detroit leaders decry police Snapchat video, vow to fight "disrespect and discrimination"

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Some of Detroit’s black women leaders are rallying behind the young woman who was taunted on video by two white police officers—and calling for some bigger changes at the Detroit Police Department.

State Representative Sherry Gay-Dagnogo organized the event that brought some of the city’s state legislators and other officials out to support Ariel Moore.

The 23-year-old Moore walked home in the cold after Detroit police officers impounded her car for expired tags. One officer, Gary Steele, madea Snapchat video of her walking away, with derisive captions like “celebrating black history month” and “what black girl magic looks like.”

Gay-Dagnogo called Moore “our daughter,” and says she wanted to show black women uniting behind her.

“Today is about a movement that says we are not going to accept this disrespect and discrimination anymore,” she said. “We must show the brother what black magic really looks like.”

Gay-Dagnogo also called for a thorough internal affairs investigation into Steele and partner Michael Garrison, saying she’s confident Chief James Craig will “do the right thing. We will be watching.”

Craig has suspended the officers with pay, pending an investigation.

Gay-Dagnogo said lawmakers plan to set up a committee to monitor the 6th Precinct, where Steele and Garrison work. She also called for mandatory mental health assessments and cultural sensitivity training for officers, as well as a thorough assessment of all Detroit police personnel. Gay-Dagnogo pointed out that Steele had served probation for domestic violence and unlawful discharge of a weapon in 2008.

Gay-Dagnogo also called on Craig to address larger racial issues within the department.

“Beyond these officers, his greatest charge is not to ignore the racial tension that exists in the police department,” she said. “We know that studies have been conducted, and they have been dismissed. We have some issues.”

In early 2017, under external pressure, Craig released a copy of an internal reportfrom the department’s Committee on Racial Equality. It expressed “great concern” about “imbedded racial attitudes and behaviors by the some of the command staff.”

Noting that certain specialized units and command staff members are overwhelmingly white in a department that’s majority African American, the report said that “the racism that exists in the department trickles down from the command staff to the rank and file.”

Days later, Craig disbanded the CORE committee, while saying he would move forward with implementing some of its recommendations.

Moore attended the event with her family and an attorney. She later declined to comment to reporters, but the family reportedlyplans to file a lawsuit over Moore’s encounter with the police.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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