Mohamed Okdie said: “It will be business as usual, and it will be horrible.”
Ron Scott, others lauded Godbee
By Diane Bukowski
(Ed. note: this story as written last year was rejected for publication while the author was still employed by the Michigan Citizen. It is being printed in the Voice of Detroit now due to its relevance to current events, including the trial of Jason Gibson in the death of Officer Brian Huff, and the recent announcement that Michigan State Police have submitted a warrant request for a man in the death of Aiyana Jones last May 16.)
DETROIT – Does Mayor Dave Bing’s discharge of Police Chief Warren Evans and his appointment of Ralph Godbee as acting chief portend any change in the Detroit Police Department’s notorious culture of brutality, cover-ups, and corruption?
Not so, says former Board of Police Commissioners (BOPC) chair Mohamed Okdie, recently removed by Bing after five years on the Commission.
‘It’s going to be business as usual, and it will be horrible,” Okdie told this reporter in an exclusive interview. “Godbee is part of the good ol’ boy network, and will go along with anything and do anything to save his job.”
To explain Evans’ firing, Bing cited his dissatisfaction with a Hollywood promo video showing Evans as a macho, tough-guy chief personally routing out criminals in the country’s former “murder capital.” Bing admitted, however, that he saw the video weeks before he fired Evans.
Bing also blamed Evans for authorizing the A&E reality TV show “48 Hours” to tail the Detroit Police Special Response Team. That team carried out a horrific assault on the home of seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones May 16, during which white officer Joseph Weekley shot the little girl to death.
Bing failed to note that the show also needed the approval of his appointee in the city’s film office and the city council to operate in city limits.
Bing did not refer to the bizarre death of police officer Brian Huff, shot to death on the city’s east side May 3 after the 12-year veteran responded to an alleged “shots fired” call. Huff was the only cop of dozens on the scene who did not unholster his gun before entering the residence involved.
Nonetheless, that case hovers in the shadows of Evans’ one-year tenure and is now in Godbee’s lap. The lone man accused in the killing, Jason Gibson, faces pre-trial Aug. 6 and trial Oct. 12 in front of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway.
Okdie said he fought for Bing and the Board of Police Commissioners to investigate Jones’ and Huff’s deaths. Godbee represented the police in press conferences on both cases.
“I instigated a call for an independent citizens’ committee to determine whether police procedures were properly followed,” Okdie said. “Two days after Aiyana was killed, I told Mayor Bing he needed to make a statement and consult with community groups. I said I would help get the groups together. But his response was, ‘It doesn’t matter, people are going to complain anyway.’”
Okdie said Bing and Evans conveniently dumped investigation of the case on the Michigan State Police (MSP), who he believes will do nothing. MSP Second District Commander Harold Love refused comment on any progress in that investigation during a news conference held by Evans July 1.
Okdie said Deputy Mayor Saul Green met with him to squelch his plans to publish a statement on the case, including an opinion from an expert on police matters.
Regarding the Huff case, Okdie referred to talk around the police department that the scene o his killing was a police-operated drug house and that Huff was set up.
“I was sniffing around about police procedures in entering that house and they didn’t like it and got rid of me,” he said. “The Mayor’s office wants control of the Board of Police Commissioners, the Detroit Public Schools, the City Council, everything. That’s their M.O.”
Okdie added,. “What they did to me is indicative of what their future policy will be. The Commission is not a civilian oversight board.”
He noted that police commissioner Adela Rivera is a retired police officer. After retirement, according to news reports, Rivera shot two men to death in 2003 as they exited her southwest side bar. She claimed they had robbed and assaulted patrons and her manager.
Former Mayor Ken Cockrel, Jr. appointed Rivera. Bing has since appointed George Anthony, a retired Ecorse police chief, as board secretary, and former judge Irma Chenevert to run the Office of the Chief Investigator (OCI), which investigates civilian complaints. In addition, said Okdie, Bing slotted eight additional investigator spots in the OCI for police officers.
Okdie, who was appointed to the BOPC by former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, is studying for a doctorate in social policy at Wayne State University. He was a social worker at Detroit Receiving Hospital and in the Detroit Public Schools and a community liaison for U.S. Rep. John Conyers. He serves on the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents, and belongs to the NAACP and the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
In response to a query regarding whether Okdie was removed for reasons related to the Jones and Huff cases. Bing spokesperson Karen Dumas said, “Mr. Okdie’s term on the Police Commission expired July 1, 2010. The documentation shows that clearly. The administration is pleased about the opportunity to appoint Raphael Johnson to the Commission.”
During the BOPC meeting July 22, Ron Scott and Sandra Hines of The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, Inc. along with citizen Bernice Smith, gave unreserved kudos to Godbee during public comment. They said they believed he would do a good job as police chief and that no nationwide search was needed.
In response to questions from this reporter, Godbee said he would continue a “Comprehensive Violence Reduction Partnership” consisting of eleven federal, state, county and city law enforcement agencies. Evans said July 1 that the CVRP is an “ongoing extended partnership,” with a pilot focus on the Sixth and Eighth Precincts for the summer.
“We have entered into an agreement until the end of the summer,” Godbee said. “This is a temporary means to control violence in the most affected areas, which are determined by crime statistics. It is focused on fugitive apprehension and gives us the investigative capacity and prosecutorial assistance especially as relates to weapons charges. All of us are short of manpower and resources.”
Godbee also said he would “look into” rampant stops of young African males on E. Jefferson, Belle Isle, and other locations. Many of those stopped have said that police conduct unwarranted and illegal searches of their vehicles. They allege the police do not even ask for their driver’s licenses or insurance information, and are mainly interested in finding guns and drugs, even if the stop is not legitimate.
Godbee said he is “cautiously optimistic” that the department’s long-awaited risk management database on officers who sustain multiple complaints is now operational. He said he will make every effort to comply with two U.S. Justice Department consent decrees.
During his 23-year career with the department, Godbee was in charge of former Mayor Dennis Archer’s Executive Protection Unit from 1995-1999, years during which Detroit ranked as the police killing capital of the country, with more killings by police per capita than any other major city. Media exposes of those killings, initiated by The Michigan Citizen, led to the consent decrees.
Godbee was head of the police recruiting unit from 1999-2002, during which 30 percent of the officers now on the force were hired, according to his published remarks. According to a DPD bio, he was appointed Commander of the Ninth Precinct in 2002 and afterwards became Commanding Officer of the Risk and Policy Management Division of the Detroit Police Department. He became Commander of the Eastern Operations Unit in March, 2005 and was appointed assistant chief in 2007.
From 1999 through mid-2010, this writer reported in the Michigan Citizen at least 50 killings and shootings by Detroit police that appeared to be unjustified. In February, 2005, just before Godbee left risk management, police shot four men to death. Since the killing of Aiyana Stanley-Jones in the Eastern District in May, one man was severely wounded and at least two other men shot to death in that district by police, prior to Godbee’s appointment as Acting Police Chief.