Ricardo Moore headshot
Ricardo Moore, member of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners and chair of the Citizen Complaint Committee, is demanding a plan by December to address the growing police complaint backlog. (Facebook photo)

The citizen complaint committee chair for the city’s police oversight board is demanding a plan to clear out the growing backlog of complaints against Detroit police that he said is hurting the public’s trust.

Police Commissioner Ricardo Moore, who chairs the Citizen Complaint Committee, said there is a lack of communication between him, Interim Chief Investigator Lawrence Akbar and Interim Board Secretary Melanie White. 

Moore, who represents the city’s District 7, said he has requested Akbar and White submit to him and the rest of the board, in writing, their initiatives for reducing the backlog by December. Moore also asked for a weekly report about “everything that’s taking place over at OCI.” He believes this backlog hurts the public’s trust in BOPC and OCI. 

“Citizens’ tax dollars are now affected because overtime (for the investigators) has been authorized and we haven’t got any methodology into a plan of action for how they plan on bringing (the backlog of cases) down to zero,” he said. 

In April, BridgeDetroit reported that the Board of Police Commissioners’ Office of the Chief Investigator had a backlog of more than 780 non-criminal complaints filed by residents over police procedure, force, harassment, searches and arrests that hadn’t yet been resolved. During a recent BOPC meeting, there was said to be a backlog of 850 complaints. 

A citizen complaint is declared “backlogged” if it is still in the system after 90 days without being closed. There are more than 1,070 open complaints total. 

Moore added that he hasn’t been invited to any meetings at OCI or been briefed on how complaints are being investigated. 

“I have absolutely no idea, as the chairman of the Citizen Complaint Committee, how (the Interim Chief Investigator and Interim Board Secretary) plan on working on this backlog,” Moore said. 

Akbar did not respond to multiple requests for comment from BridgeDetroit and White declined to comment on the backlog but did say “OCI is scheduled to give a presentation next Thursday, so more information will be shared at that time.” 

Moore said he believes “poor leadership” has allowed the backlog problem, among other issues, to persist at OCI. 

“I believe that (Akbar and White) are competent individuals,” he said. “I believe that they aren’t always as transparent as they should be, but for some reason, our poor leadership has allowed that to happen.”

Leadership isn’t the only problem preventing the backlogged complaints from being closed out.  

According to BOPC staff, there are four unfilled investigator positions within OCI. Commissioner Willie Bell, who represents the city’s District 4, said the board is reviewing 15 applicants to fill investigator positions. 

Bell also stressed that the board is taking the citizen complaints seriously, but noted the backlog is of non-criminal complaints that “don’t really impact one’s life.”

“You file a complaint, ‘I’m not happy with the officer’s behavior,’ in terms of his attitude. Those are not misconduct, those more or less issues that we try to address,” Bell told BridgeDetroit. 

Of the 8,191 citizen complaints filed between May 2019 and June 2022, more than 35% allege procedure violations, according to DPD data. Nearly 24% of complaints are about an officer’s demeanor and 6% are complaints about use of force. Nearly 80% of citizens’ complaints were filed by Black Detroiters. 

Bell said the Wayne County court system is backed up and the Detroit Police Department is also dealing with staffing issues. He said one reason for the high number of backlogged cases is OCI entertains complaints when there are “more important things” happening with law enforcement. 

“We have good intentions of closing those cases within 90 days, but realistically, that’s not reality of what we deal with due to the volume of cases, and we don’t turn people away in terms of filing a complaint,” Bell said. 

Detroit Documenters contributed to this report

Bryce Huffman is a reporter for BridgeDetroit. He was formerly a reporter for Michigan Radio, and host of the podcast, Same Same Different.

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