DPD: “There could be no possible justification” to send DHS officers to Detroit

In a statement released late this afternoon, the Detroit Police Department stated that “there could be no possible justification” for the federal government to send DHS officers to Detroit, amid speculation that the Trump Administration might do so. The statement noted that most protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful and no looting or rioting has taken place, in contrast with other cities:

“The Detroit Police Department has had the support of the Detroit community in making sure our city did not have a single store looted or a single fire started during the protests… Unlike nearly every other major city in the country, the Detroit Police Department never requested assistance from the National Guard – we handled our issues as a community. We definitely have no need for any federal presence being sent in now.”

Questions have been swirling amid criticisms of the federal government’s use of unidentified, militarized police to arrest nonviolent protesters in Portland, Oregon during recent protests. US President Donald Trump has excoriated the Democratic leadership of the city and demanded “law and order,” threatening the deployment of more federal officers in more cities. Protesters were detained, taken away in what appeared to be unmarked minivans, and later released without charges, sparking outrage from policymakers, activists, and legal observers. Protests continued in Portland last night in even larger numbers as a critical response to the federal intervention. The President named Detroit specifically in a recent Twitter tirade. The federal government’s indiscriminate use of militarized officers in Portland, uncoordinated with local law enforcement or authorities, prompted a lawsuit from the Oregon Attorney General.

Detroit Will Breathe, an organization leading advocacy and demonstration initiatives, posted a video on their Instagram account earlier today that appeared to indicate the presence of militarized federal officers on Detroit’s West Side, driving vehicles similar to those seen in Portland. The officers were pictured leaving a parking lot and it is unclear what their next destination was.

Friday Afternoon Update, 7/24: John Roach in the Mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment, but Mayor Duggan did say in a recording that while he would welcome federal intervention in assisting with prosecuting violent crimes, there was no reason for the federal government to deploy officers to intervene in the protest movement. Trump has proven himself somewhat unable to differentiate between the two. Police Chief James Craig followed Duggan’s lead and emphasized his former point rather than his latter, also failing to make the distinction. Detroit’s murder rate is almost 20 times that of Portland, so it’s not a stretch to say that violent crime in the city is a problem. But using the excuse of violent crime as a way to justify federal intervention amid a separate (but ultimately related) protest movement seems like a back door solution, given the federal track record of violent intervention in nonviolent protests.

Detroit mounted police officers on Michigan Avenue at a protest in June 2020. Photo by author.

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Nat M. Zorach, AICP is a city planner, community development professional, and MBA candidate at American University's Kogod School of Business, based in Detroit.

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