The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, accusing Detroit police of removing homeless people from a popular tourist area and dropping them off outside city limits.
“A yearlong ACLU investigation uncovered the disturbing practice of officers approaching individuals who appear to be homeless in the Greektown area, forcing them into police vans and deserting them miles away,” the ACLU said in a news release.
The organization also sent a letter to the Detroit Police Department. Interim Police Chief Chester Logan said the department will look into the allegations, according to the Detroit Free Press.
“At the present time, the Detroit Police Department has not received a copy of the complaint that has been filed,” he said. “Therefore, it would be inappropriate to provide further comment without reviewing the specific allegations.”
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The ACLU has requested that the Department of Justice ask Detroit to issue a directive to city officers “explaining that it is illegal to banish homeless individuals from Greektown to any other neighborhood of Detroit.”
“This is a familiar story with a long history in policing,” said police accountability expert Samuel Walker. “You do wonder, What did this Police Department learn from the consent decree experience? Somebody has to walk back to where they want to be. They could be attacked … It’s clearly putting people at risk.”
Sarah Mehta, an ACLU of Michigan staff attorney, had this to say: “DPD’s practice of essentially kidnapping homeless people and abandoning them miles away from the neighborhoods they know – with no means for a safe return – is inhumane, callous and illegal. The city’s desire to hide painful reminders of our economic struggles cannot justify discriminating against the poor."