Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Will Rev. Jerome Warfield Resign From The Detroit Board of Police Commissioners Tomorrow?

In an ironic twist of fate, while Detroit Mayor Dave Bing recently appeared on several national news broadcasts to provide details about his bold initiative to entice city workers to live in Detroit, the Detroit City Council announced that they are launching an investigation into the residency of Detroit Board of Police Commission Chair Reverend Jerome Warfield.

Bing's plan, has been dubbed as Project 14 because that number in police code talk means "back to normal," will offer key non-resident city employees (e.g. firefighters and police officers) homes in specific neighborhoods for only $1,000 and access to grant money for making any needed repairs to make the residences habitable.

Project 14, according to Bing, will help stabilize Detroit's neighborhoods and eliminate the perceived disconnect between the community and its public employees who some see as foreign occupiers.

Supposedly, the enacted plan will put a dent in the amount of unoccupied homes in the city, which are not on the tax rolls and are subject to constant vandalization that creates blighted neighborhoods. In addition, Bing feels that by having more officers residing in the city's neighborhoods, crime will drop.

I believe that, even if this plan gets enacted, criminals will figure out where to continue to ply their illegal trade with seemingly impunity. Our current criminal justice system has more criminals in it now than it can handle. If it was possible to catch more criminals, we wouldn't know what to do with them.

The state is relentlessly releasing violent criminals back into our communities with no accountability, local Prosecutors are cutting deals at a break-neck pace to be able to cover the court cases, and judges are reluctant to sentence "serious time" to offenders because we lack the jail space.

I personally believe that it's going to take more than this half-baked idea (i.e. Project 14), which creates more questions than it answers, to solve Detroit's most pressing problems.

There is a reason why 53% of the city's key safety staff live outside of the city from where they earn a paycheck: rampant violent crime, a deep and long tradition of political corruption, a broken criminal justice system, a failed public school system, and a poor economic climate.

In 1999, the state of Michigan enacted PA 212 which eliminated residency requirements for employees of public employers. As a consequence, many Detroit police officers and firefighters jumped at the opportunity to establish residences outside of Detroit.

PA 212, however, did not strike down residency requirements for appointed members of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners. Section Sec. 7-1102 of the Detroit City Charter explicitly states among other things that "All members of the board must be residents of the city."

On Monday, Fox News Detroit, aired a story which strongly suggests that Detroit Board of Police Commission Chair Reverend Jerome Warfield is not a resident of the city of the Detroit.

In the story, reporter Charle LeDuff, asserted all of the following claims to an apparently stunned Warfield who did little to provide compelling contrary evidence:

  • Warfield is registered to vote in Macomb County.
  • Warfield is listed in a Macomb County Phone Book.
  • Warfield has a car registered in Macomb County.
  • Warfield has a Macomb County home listed in Macomb County Tax Records as his primary residence.

It is certainly not a crime to be a Macomb County resident. However, being a member of the Detroit Board of Police Commission while not being a Detroit resident violates the Detroit Charter.

In the aftermath of the aforementioned report, I was informed yesterday, by Detroit City Councilman Charles Pugh, that the Detroit City Council was going to investigate in committee sometime today whether Warfield is a city of Detroit resident.

Moreover, in a discussion that I had yesterday with Detroit City Charter Commissioner Ken Coleman, the Detroit Charter lacks much provisions for enforcement of its rules. In short, it may just be up to Detroit Mayor Dave Bing to make the call as to whether Warfield stays on the Detroit Police Commission.

An update to the Fox News story, posted yesterday, stated that:

Karan Dumas, the mayor's spokeswoman said, "We are gathering all information related to the residency of Jerome Warfield, which will be submitted to the Law Department for review and a recommendation. Thereafter, we will determine what steps, if any, must be taken."

In light of the controversy generated by this revelation - Warfield's apparent non-resident status - it would be in the best interest of the city for him to resign his appointment to the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners.

The next public meeting of the Board of Detroit Police Commissioners is scheduled for tomorrow night at the W.O.W. Church and Family Center at 14111 E. Seven Mile Rd. at 6:30 p.m. It would be a farce for Board of Police Commissioner Chair Warfield to chair tomorrow's meeting with this cloud hanging over his head.

As a Commissioner, Warfield is required to mete out discipline to sworn Detroit police officers for not following departmental procedures, policy, and protocol. To continue to do so, while apparently not following the City Charter with respect to his own eligibility to serve in that position, would be a grave disservice to the city of Detroit and the Detroit Police Department.

I am predicting that Warfield will do the honorable thing and resign at tomorrow's meeting.

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