Since he was elected mayor in 2009, Dave Bing has fired two police chiefs and suspended one. Bing removed former police chief James Barron and appointed then Wayne County Sherriff Warren Evans. He did so as a standard round of appointments for his administration.
But since then both of Bing’s picks for police chief have been involved romantically with subordinates. Bing suspended current Police Chief Ralph Godbee Tuesday evening after an affair that Godbee was having with a subordinate was exposed.
It seems as though Detroit Mayor Bing’s tolerance for internal romance between police chiefs and subordinates is very low. My question is this: Does this have to do with the shadow of the Kwame Kipatrick sex scandal that still looms over city leaders? Has the fear that the city can’t afford another ongoing sex scandal made the mayor hyper sensitive to relationships between leaders and subordinates?
Chief Godbee, who is separated from his wife and going through a divorce, was having a relationship with a married police officer. Not a huge scandal at face value, but maybe Bing knows something bigger is going on here. If not, the suspension seems a bit drastic, especially as the Detroit Police Department faces such trying times. With 10 percent wage cuts, 12-hour shifts, low police morale, and a homicide rate that grows daily makes an interoffice affair seem miniscule.
That’s not to say Godbee’s actions were right. Godbee should have learned a lesson from the events that surrounded his appointment to chief in the first place. And it’s never a good idea to sleep with an employee.
Godbee was appointed to be the city’s top law enforcer after Bing fired his predecessor, Warren Evans, in part for being romantically involved with a subordinate. At the time Bing said Evans’ romantic relationship with Lt. Monique Patterson would get in the way of Evans’ ability to conduct business.
Directly after Bing hired Godbee to replace Evans, Patterson released text messages showing she also had a romantic relationship with Godbee. Bing didn’t act on the texts Patterson released, and Godbee remained at his post.
Godbee's suspension sparked Evan's interest. Evans, who was fired in 2009, still seems bitter about the oust: He posted on Facebook:
Maybe someone can help me with the Mayor's mathematical equation and thought process:
Single man openly dates single woman = forced resignation
Married man has affair with single woman=promotion to Chief
Married man has another affair with married woman=30 day suspension.
Married man has no clue about fighting crime or fiscal management
The suspension of a police chief does not move the city any closer to curbing the rising homicide rate: The 287 murders committed through Sept. 23 in Detroit are 26 more than at the same point last year.
But the immediate and severe action does move the city closer to an image of no-nonsense leadership that snips interoffice sex scandals in the bud. And maybe that’s what Detroit needs most.
Aside from community policing and preventative programs, law enforcement officials have offered up a tougher solution to get better a grip on crime in the city.
At a Forum at Wayne State University last week, former Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Bratton and Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee suggested Michigan adopt sentence enhancements for gang members who commit crimes. The idea is that it will discourage gang-related violence, which is responsible for the high homicide rates in Detroit according to Godbee.
But before we go running to lawmakers to push for these “enhanced” punishments for organized crime, we should look at how Detroit’s criminal landscape differs from California in the late 90’s when Bratton was police chief.
Bratton talked about L.A.’s crime scene in a 2007 NPS interview:
“It's the birthplace of the black gangs, the Bloods and the Crips. It is the historical birthplace of the Latino gangs [and the] Mexican mafia …”
In the late 90’s when Bratton took on the Californian Crips and the Bloods, it was easier to ID gang members. For starters, they wore distinctive colors. The gangs were larger, some spanning an entire city with key signs and symbols that were easier to spot and define.
But Detroit gangs are different. The problem isn’t Crips or Bloods but rather small, wild groups of friends and neighbors who dub themselves according to whatever street they live on. Names like “Fenkell Boys” or “Lafayette Goons” are just neighborhood cliques getting into beef with the gangs or cliques just one street over. These micro gangs are harder to identify.
Detroit City Council Member James Tate, who formerly served as deputy police chief in Detroit, said it is hard to ID gangs in this city:
“Our gangs are really just people who get together and get themselves a name. We have to redefine what we call a gang. They’re not all the same colors or anything like that.”
While crime fighting is tricky, we have to be careful not to be so reactionary and take a closer look at preventative measures. It would take intensive community policing to keep up on all of the city's little crime cliques since they are often remote, smaller than big organized crime circles, and change constantly.
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