Report: No Evidence Detroit Councilman Abused Authority During Traffic Stop
DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – An investigation into a traffic stop involving Detroit City Council President Pro Tem George Cushingberry concludes there’s insufficient evidence that he abused his authority to receive favoritism from officers.
The city’s Office of Inspector General made the announcement Thursday. The report says Cushingberry provided his council identification card and identified himself as a councilman when he was stopped by police on Jan. 7 after leaving a club on the city’s west side.
Police say they found open intoxicants and marijuana in the car. Cushingberry, whose sobriety was not tested, said the weed belonged to his passenger, who has a medical marijuana license.
The report recommends the city’s executive and legislative branches create guidelines that govern employee non-official interaction with police. It also says the police department should review its policy calling for officers to notify their superiors when arresting a city employee for a serious offense.
According to police reports, Cushingberry was stopped around 10 p.m. on Jan. 7 after he made a turn without signaling near Livernois Avenue and Northfield Street, just south of I-96 on Detroit’s west side.
According to police reports, Cushingberry stopped his vehicle after being pulled over, but then attempted to start it again. At that point, an officer reached into the vehicle, grabbed the keys, and noticed a strong smell of marijuana. Officers also spotted a half cup of alcohol, and an empty rum bottle in the backseat.
Cushingberry identified himself as a city council member and the officers notified a supervisor, per department policy, who immediately responded to the scene. It was that supervisor’s final decision to issue Cushingberry a citation instead of placing him under arrest.
Following the incident, Cushingberry claimed he was a victim of racial profiling, saying he was only guilty of “driving while black.” He told reporters that the marijuana belonged to his passenger, who legally has a medical marijuana card, and that the bottle of rum in his backseat was empty and old.
After ordering an internal investigation into the actions of the supervisor, Police Chief James Craig initially said that although the six officers who responded to the scene acted properly and followed procedure, it appeared that Cushingberry received “special treatment.” A sergeant was disciplined for failing to inform his supervisors of the incident.
Cushingberry in March pleaded guilty to driving up to five miles above the speed limit. In exchange, authorities dropped a charge of failing to signal for a turn. He was ordered to pay a $95 fine.
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