Police Racially Harass and Retaliate against One of Their Own

By Mark Fancher

To America’s shame, there is nothing novel about police harassment and abuse of young Black men. Consequently, few should be surprised that during an early January morning in 2017, Johnny Strickland was harassed, humiliated, and abused by a group of white Detroit police officers. At least, there should be no surprise until it is learned that Strickland himself is an 11-year veteran of the Detroit Police Department.

Officer Strickland’s nightmare began when he attempted to complete an errand for his mother. The off-duty officer in civilian clothing pulled into the parking lot of a gas station market unaware that it was the scene of an investigation of an abandoned suspected hand grenade. There was nothing to indicate the site was under investigation. No barrier tape, no flashing lights, no posted guards — nothing.

As he exited his car, Strickland heard a disembodied voice shout directions to leave. He then saw a figure approaching him rapidly through the early morning fog. As the individual drew closer, Strickland recognized him as a fellow police officer.

Strickland immediately identified himself as a police officer, but the approaching sergeant responded only by saying: “I don’t give a f— who you are. … You should have left when I told you to.” The sergeant then grabbed Strickland violently and placed him in handcuffs. Strickland pleaded in vain for the sergeant to retrieve his identification from his pocket, but Strickland was instead taken into the presence of other white officers on the scene.

Before the episode ended, Strickland endured a barrage of profanity and was called “stupid,” dumb,” and an “idiot.” He was mocked and taunted, and the handcuffs were deliberately tightened to a point where they caused physical injury. His only relief came when the sole Black officer on the scene loosened the handcuffs.

Things, however, did not get better when a supervising officer arrived.

He warned Strickland not to report his experience. When Strickland informed the supervisor of his commitment to reporting the misconduct, he was told he would suffer consequences for doing so. Adding insult to injury was an unauthorized unlawful K-9 search of Strickland’s car. Later, the threat of retaliation was fulfilled. Strickland faced several baseless disciplinary charges growing out of the incident.

Strickland’s experience was not unique.

Only 10 days earlier, Detroit’s police chief had learned about the misery of Black police officers from a report on race relations prepared by a special committee the chief had established. The report described an ongoing pattern of harassment and retaliation directed against Black police officers by white supervisory officers. The chief publicly dismissed the report and suspended the work of the committee that prepared it.

Officer Strickland is not content to allow a racially hostile work environment to continue. With the help of the ACLU of Michigan, he has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Detroit, its police department, and several individual officers. Strickland is sticking his neck out because he feels it’s his duty.

“I filed this lawsuit because racial harassment and retaliation were directed at me, and I don’t want any other officers to have to suffer in the way that I did,” he said. “I am concerned about more than just the welfare of my fellow officers of color. After I was targeted on the street for humiliating and dangerous harassment by white officers, it became clear to me that if I, as a veteran police officer, can so easily become the victim of police misconduct, then the ordinary Black person doesn’t have a chance.”

The efforts of Officer Strickland and the ACLU of Michigan may be a step toward giving African-Americans a chance to live in a city where there is high quality, non-discriminatory law enforcement.

Mark Fancher is a staff attorney with ACLU of Michigan


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19 Comments

    1. Eric Gelber

      More fanciful, embellished and disingenuous self-serving stories from the ACLU.

      By all means, please share the facts you are in possession of that support these characterizations. Otherwise, how about waiting to see what happens with the lawsuit?

  1. Keith O

    As with the case of Mollie Tibbets we’re told not to stereotype all illegal immigrants based on a few bad apples but in turn the left always stereotypes cops and other non-perferred groups based on just a few bad apples.

    1. Ken A

      When you have a world view that all white males and cops are evil it is important to point out stuff like this since racist white cops are so bad that they are now even getting black cops to shoot people of color.

      https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/dec/26/black-suspects-more-likely-to-be-shot-by-black-cop/

      P.S. It is shocking to hear that Keith thinks that there is “another side of the story”, can he really even imagine an off duty black cop not following the orders of a white cop?  Does he even think that the cop who was told to keep people away from the grenade would even get in trouble if a black man died because he just let him walk toward the grenade?  Does the mainstream media even cover stories where the actions of white cops result in a dead black guy?

    2. Eric Gelber

      the left always stereotypes cops and other non-perferred groups based on just a few bad apples.

      Do you not see the irony and hypocrisy in your doing exactly what you say the left “always” does–making sweeping allegations and stereotyping?

  2. Jerry Waszczuk

    Only 10 days earlier, Detroit’s police chief had learned about the misery of Black police officers from a report on race relations prepared by a special committee the chief had established. The report described an ongoing pattern of harassment and retaliation directed against Black police officers by white supervisory officers. The chief publicly dismissed the report and suspended the work of the committee that prepared it.

    Detroit Chief of Police James Craig  is African American .

     

  3. Jeff M

    DJT just gave this moving speech…

    First, this country will no long single-out, separate or honor race or ethnicity.  As your President of this greatest country on God’s green earth, I care not if your racial makeup is black, brown, red, yellow or white.  Neither should we care if your origins are African, Latin American, Asian or European, or if your ancestors arrived here on the Mayflower or on slave ships. The only identity I care about and I believe our maker cares about, the only one this great country should recognize, is your individual identity — your character, your behavior and your humanity.  And the only national identity this great country should care about is American.

    This is a United Stated of America place.  We Americans are privileged to be here at this great time in history.  We should be honored, but also know the responsibility that comes with that privilege.  It is to always strive to be ourselves better Americans.  If you wish to affirm an ethnic, racial or religious identity through civil and respectful association, then here in this country we not only support that… we celebrate that.  But we will not as a country sanction any singular divisive group identity movement as part of my national policy.

    In this administration, I will issue orders to end all ethnicity, race and non-American nationality-based celebrations. They undermine the motto of America, one of its three central values — E pluribus unum, “from many, one.” And this country will be guided by America ‘s values.

    Our forward American progress will be based on American interests and passions, not tribalism based on blood, ethnic, racial or other physically defined ties.  This splintered tribalism cultivates narcissism — an unhealthy preoccupation with the self – and is too easily exploited by charlatan politicians and others that seek to enrich themselves while inflaming tensions… like the employees of the ACLU.

    I wish.

    1. Howard P

      Do you really think POTUS authored that?

      If so, there are elements of self-awareness we have not seen before… perhaps the author also authored the NY Times op-ed… a bit of plagarism from McCain, methinks…

      And given history of his (or should I say, His?) comments, doubt he believes in God, except perhaps if he sees himself as a perfect image and likeness…

        1. Alan Miller

          > It was a dream of mine . . . it was plagerized from a piece from the great Mark Levin and tweaked.

          A dream of what Trump would say in a backwards universe?  What drug causes that brand of hallucination?  Sounded to me like Obama with Trump throwing in the end of the last sentence.

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