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Ride On Belle Isle Targets Reported “Disrespectful, Aggressive” Police Behavior Toward Citizens

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Detroiter Ken Betheaw, second from left, joins a unique demonstration on Belle Isle. (credit: Kathryn Larson/WWJ) FILE PHOTO

Detroiter Ken Betheaw, second from left, joins a unique demonstration on Belle Isle. (credit: Kathryn Larson/WWJ) FILE PHOTO

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DETROIT (WWJ) – There’s been much ado about alleged “excessive policing” on Belle Isle since state troopers and Department of Natural Resources officers took over daily patrols.

Among the latest complainants: bicyclists who are concerned about “disrespectful” and “aggressive” treatment of citizens.

“The ticketing and warning stops that have occurred on the Island appear to be meant to discourage certain people from enjoying this historic park. We will not tolerate that,” said on Scott, spokesman for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, in a media release.

Scott said a protesters would demonstrate, for a second time, on Sunday with a “ride for respect” around the park.

“People are responding, and we expect 60 people on this second ride. We intend to be the eyes and ears of the public to make sure citizens are treated with respect, dignity, and according to their full Constitutional rights. This is our city, and while we welcome the individuals who have come to the Island to promote public safety, we need to do it together, and not feel as though we are occupiers,” Scott said.

Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said troopers are simply following the letter of the law, and no Belle Isle policing problems have been brought to his attention.

“You know, we listen to all the citizens that have a complaint,” Shaw said in a recent interview. “Fortunately, since we’ve been on the island since the beginning of February, we’ve received zero complaints — not complaints at the post whatsoever.”

Among those stopped, so far, for alleged speeding in the 985-acre park include the Detroit City Clerk  Janice Winfrey as well as the mayor himself. Winfrey was offended when a DNR officer told her he was looking to clear the park of “riff raff,” while Mayor Mike Duggan said his encounter was cordial.

Detroit City Council member Brenda Jones, too, has been highly critical of the patrols, calling them a “disgrace.”   She told reporters last week that she’s been in talks with state officials about this issue, and an investigation is underway.

Owned by the city since 1879, Belle Isle had suffered in recent years as a cash-strapped Detroit coudn’t afford needed repairs. Under the terms of a 30-year lease, the state took control of the island on Feb. 10.

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