DETROIT (WWJ) – Detroit Police Chief James Craig has ordered an internal investigation of a police supervisor who did not arrest a City Council leader, despite officers apparently finding marijuana and an open bottle of alcohol in his vehicle during a late night traffic stop.
The incident happened around 10 p.m. Tuesday, as City Council President Pro Tem George Cushingberry was leaving a strip club. Craig said officers initiated a traffic stop after observing a vehicle make a turn without using a turn signal near Livernois Avenue and Northfield Street, just south of I-96 on the city’s west side.
Once the officers approached the vehicle, Craig said they realized who they were dealing with.
“Upon learning they had stopped a council person, they notified a supervisor and the supervisor made a decision that the councilman would be cited and released,” Craig said. “He was not arrested.”
Although police made no mention of it in a statement to the media, reports indicate the officers actually tried to pull Cushingberry over after his vehicle almost struck a police cruiser. Cushingberry allegedly ignored their sirens and a chase ensued. A second squad car was reportedly called in to help with the chase. When Cushingberry was finally stopped, officers apparently spotted an open alcohol container and smelled marijuana. Still, it was the supervisor’s final call that Cushingberry be issued a citation, instead of being taken into custody.
After reviewing the situation, Craig said he decided to open an investigation into the actions of the supervisor, who let Cushingberry go instead of placing him under arrest.
“Based on our initial review of the circumstances, we’ve initiated an internal investigation against a member of the police department, a supervisor. And so right now, that case is still continuing,” he said. “The councilman was cited and released, that’s over. Done.”
Cushingberry, who was elected president pro-tem Monday by the newly seated council, told reporters that he doesn’t feel like he did anything wrong. He said the bottle of rum in his backseat was empty and old, and while there was a strong smell of marijuana in the air, it was his passenger’s, who has a medical marijuana card.
“It was obvious that I wasn’t drunk because he didn’t give me any field sobriety,” Cushingberry said, adding that he plans to fight the “bogus” citation he was issued.
Cushingberry, an African-American, went on to say that he’s a victim of racial profiling, targeted by two white officers. The police chief, however, said one of the officers involved is black.
“I have no comment about the city council and in terms of the allegations, there is an investigation against a member of our department and that’s where it stays,” Craig said.
Newly elected Mayor Mike Duggan said while he’s waiting to hear the whole story before making a judgment, the potential scandal is not exactly how he wanted to start his term.
“I think we need to wait and see all the facts and see what actually happened at that traffic stop, but it’s obviously a distraction that the council doesn’t need right now and I hope it gets resolved quickly,” he said.
WWJ Legal Analyst Charlie Langton said regardless if Cushingberry is charged, this situation may have a huge effect on the councilman’s future in office.
“From a political point of view, this is terrible,” he said. “This spells a lot of trouble for Cushingberry. Even if he’s not arrested on these charges, to have a story like this out there, politically, it is disastrous.”
Sgt. Michael Woody told the Detroit Free Press the internal investigation might produce criminal charges. The supervisor under investigation was not identified.