Complaints against Detroit police languish due to investigator vacancies and Covid hurdles

January 23, 2022, 11:25 AM

Over 750 citizen complaints against Detroit police await review by a short-staffed office with a workload backlog.

Lawrence Akbar, interim chief investigator for the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, tells The Detroit News he hopes to close half the outstanding cases by summer.

"I am going to hold a monthly Zoom and invite people whose complaints are over 90 days old and people whose cases were administratively closed," Akbar said. "Our goal is to provide updates about the backlog and increase public education about the process for investigating complaints." ...

[His office], which reports to the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, handles non-criminal complaints against Detroit cops, mostly about officers' behavior and procedures. Allegations of criminal wrongdoing, such as excessive force, are forwarded to the police department's internal affairs investigators.

The OCI [Office of the Chief Investigator] has a staff of 10, including supervisors and investigators, and is looking to fill seven positions left vacant by retirements and resignations since 2020. ...

Since Akbar was named interim director Feb. 27, 2020, the office has received 2,328 citizen complaints,1,569 of which have been closed.

The investigator shortage comes as more citizens are filing complaints against officers. Complaints from Jan. 1, 2021-Oct. 31, 2021, the most recent date available, were up 18% over the same period in 2020. ...

Investigators are juggling dozens of cases while navigating Covid-related challenges, such as working remotely, and trying to schedule officers for interviews about citizens' complaints, officials said. At least three investigators have tested positive for Covid since the start of the pandemic. 

The Board of Police Commissioners has 11 civilian members and was creatred by the city charter in 1974 under Mayor Coleman A. Young.

Read more:  The Detroit News

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