Politics Mondays: Detroit Seeks More Time To Act Against Police Brutality by David Ashenfelter

Pleading poverty, the city of Detroit has asked a federal judge to give it more time to comply with federally mandated improvements to reduce excessive force and mistreatment of prisoners by Detroit police officers.

Since 2003, when city officials signed two consent decrees to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, the city has seen significant downward spiral in its budget, city attorney John Schapka told U.S. District Judge Julian Cook in court documents filed late Wednesday.

He said the city revenues have shrunk by $1.7 billion since then, leaving the city with too little money to comply with the agreements. He said many of the improvements require costly construction projects.

Schapka asked Cook to add three years to an agreement governing use of force. It was set to expire in July 2008. He also asked the judge to extend by four years an agreement governing conditions of prisoner confinement that was to expire in July.

There was no immediate comment from the Department of Justice, which sued the city in 2003 after a Free Press series found that Detroit police officers had a higher rate of fatal shootings of civilians of cops in other large U.S. cities.

Critics have repeatedly berated the police department for its slow response in complying with the federal mandates, including those that donít require a major expenditure of city funds. So far, it has complied with only 34 of the 177 requirements of the agreements, Schapka said.

Cook hasnít scheduled a hearing on the request.

You can contact David Ashenfelter at dashenfelter@freepress.com. This article first appeared June 21, 2007 in The Detroit Free Press

Copyright © 2007 Detroit Free Press Inc.

David Ashenfelter

Monday, June 25, 2007