Bryan Ferguson
Bryan Ferguson, a former leader of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners who resigned Thursday after being cited for allegedly soliciting a sex worker, is photographed at a May 11, 2023, board meeting on Detroit’s west side. (BridgeDetroit photo by Malachi Barrett)

An alleged sexual encounter between the former chairman of the city’s police oversight board and a sex worker is the latest embarrassment for Detroiters who have long complained about the board’s dysfunction. 

The Board of Police Commissioners accepted Bryan Ferguson’s resignation Thursday, one day after he was issued a misdemeanor citation by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department for indecent obscene conduct. An undercover deputy allegedly caught Ferguson, a leading voice on the civilian oversight board, receiving fellatio from a known sex worker. Ferguson’s resignation loomed over a community meeting in a New Center union hall a few hours later, where a new chairman was sworn in with the promise of rebuilding credibility and trust.


Chair QuanTez Pressley told BridgeDetroit the board’s biggest challenge is restoring the public’s faith. Pressley said the board is already moving forward from Ferguson’s resignation, and he doesn’t want the incident to distract from their work. 

“Today we focused on oversight and assured the community they have a watchful eye over police misconduct,” Pressley said Thursday evening. “I’m not a miracle worker. I’m very realistic about what can be done, so (we’re taking) baby steps and gradually trying to win back the community’s trust.” 

QuanTez Pressley standing up and speaking
Detroit Board of Police Commissioners Chair QuanTez Pressley was sworn in to lead the oversight body during a July 13, 2023, meeting. (BridgeDetroit photo by Malachi Barrett)

A tawdry sex scandal doesn’t begin to explain the board’s challenges. Commissioner Willie Bell said residents should be frustrated with Ferguson’s alleged misconduct and more. Bell said the board has a reputation for being disorganized, and hasn’t made a dent in its backlog of citizen complaints against officers. Meanwhile, the board and its staff are facing multiple investigations by the city’s Office of the Auditor General, Office of Inspector General and the Detroit Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit. 

“Law enforcement is at a critical point of accountability,” Bell said. “Something like this (sex scandal) happening at this level is shaking the whole foundation of oversight. You can’t say it’s a separate issue. This is disturbing, people should raise concerns because you can’t take this lightly. It was an illegal act. He was in a known area where sex workers are working and the community was concerned about that area.”

two people talking at a table
Detroit police commissioners Willie Bell, left, and Willie Burton, right, listen during a July 13, 2023, Board of Police Commissioners meeting. (BridgeDetroit photo by Malachi Barrett) 

The 11-member civilian board, now down to 10, has supervisory control and oversight of the Detroit Police Department under the City Charter. The board investigates citizen complaints, establishes DPD policies, approves the department’s budget and has the final say in imposing discipline for police department employees. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is responsible for appointing a commissioner to serve the remainder of Ferguson’s term until 2026. 

Commissioner Ricardo Moore said Ferguson’s resignation was necessary, but Moore noted that the former commissioner was also responsible for “a lot of positive things,” like the hiring of Board Secretary Victoriah Shah after the position was left open for three years. 

“His accomplishments are great, he’s a community guy, but he had a mishap,” Moore said. 

The board has faced heavy criticism from residents in the last year for slowly working through a backlog of hundreds of complaints against Detroit police officers. DPD is reportedly conducting criminal investigations into the board for an alleged payroll scam. Detroit’s Inspector General also launched a probe into the board, but did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the nature of the investigation.

In 2019, the OIG found former BOPC Secretary Gregory Hicks abused his authority when hiring staff members and provided false statements during the investigation. Hicks now serves on Detroit’s Reparations Task Force. The OIG also found Bell violated the Open Meetings Act when removing the appointment of a staff member.

Pressley said there are around 600 citizen complaints in the backlog. The board lacks enough investigators to work through the complaints faster – Pressley said each investigator is assigned 60 to 80 cases. Ideally they would have 15. Moore said the 2023-24 budget reduced the number of investigators by two, which adds to the strain. 

An independent review of BOPC practices by Wayne State University researchers found the board routinely relies on incomplete, misleading and out-of-date data about citizen complaints. Researchers recommended various improvements to strengthen the board’s oversight responsibilities.

Moore provided BridgeDetroit with a list of outstanding questions the board is seeking to answer as part of its oversight duties. This includes the full video and audio footage from the police killing of Porter Burks, instant notification when a DPD employee is arrested, monthly reports on data sharing agreements, a list of nonlethal devices, a spending analysis of take home vehicles; and data on missing person cases, correlations between homicide and domestic violence, internal affairs investigations and police suspensions. 

“We have to put the frame around the picture, because we are doing the work but we have to let the public know,” Moore said. “But it’s like you’re flying the plane and fixing it at the same time. We still have investigations (into the board), administrative and even criminal.” 

people sitting in a room at a meeting
Detroit residents hear a presentation on the 10th precinct community relations council during a July 13, 2023, meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners. (BridgeDetroit photo by Malachi Barrett) 

Ferguson’s tenure on the board ends less than halfway through his four-year term. He was elected in 2021 on a write-in campaign with 337 votes, beating his closest competitor by just 38 votes. Ferguson served as chair in 2022. He represented District 1, which includes the 8th police precinct and parts of the 2nd and 6th precincts. 

A biography on the commission’s website states Ferguson is a native west side Detroiter who served in the U.S. Army and is a Little League baseball coach. He is married and has a daughter. Ferguson was named Community Leader of the Year by local organizations in 2015 and was given two Spirit of Detroit Awards. 

Ferguson’s alleged behavior is already forgiven by Bernice Smith, a longtime activist and an original member of the board when it was created in the 1970s. Smith said she talked with him over the phone on Thursday.

Ferguson has not publicly acknowledged any wrongdoing. Instead, he denied the allegations, calling the situation “a big misunderstanding” in a Wednesday press release. Ferguson initially said that he would be taking a step back from board meetings, but ultimately resigned Thursday.

In his Thursday statement, Ferguson said it has been “an honor and a privilege to serve the residents of Detroit in police oversight” and urged the board and the public to stay focused on “oversight, transparency and accountability.” 

Smith said Ferguson shouldn’t have resigned.

“How are they going to pick him out of probably hundreds of men?,” Smith said. “We all have done something in our lives that we could be ashamed of.”

Wayne County Sheriff Capt. Jason Bates said an “undercover special operations” unit was conducting surveillance near Schaefer Highway and Schoolcraft Road when they identified a known sex worker on the street. Bates said deputies observed Ferguson drive by in a Chevy SSR, circle around the block and pick up the woman in his truck around 7:15 a.m. Wednesday. Bates said Ferguson drove a few blocks away to Sorrento Avenue near the Jeffries Service Drive before he parked the vehicle. 

Bates said deputies approached the car and witnessed Ferguson “in the midst of a sex act.” Ed Foxworth III, director of communications for the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, said police witnessed Ferguson “receiving fellatio” in his truck. 

“The car had some movement to it,” Foxworth said. “It’s our opinion that he, being involved in a sex act, wasn’t paying attention to his surroundings.” 

Bates said Ferguson identified himself as a police commissioner. Ferguson and the alleged sex worker were both issued citations and released, while Ferguson’s truck was impounded. Bates estimated roughly 20 minutes passed from the time Ferguson allegedly picked up the woman to when they were cited. 

WXYZ Detroit reported that Ferguson said the woman jumped into his truck without his permission while fleeing a dangerous situation. 

Bates said neither Ferguson nor the woman made any indication that she was in danger when police arrived. Foxworth said the woman “didn’t seem the least bit concerned,” despite Ferguson’s claim that she feared for her life.

Join the Conversation


  1. “How are they going to pick him out of probably hundreds of men?,” Smith said. “We all have done something in our lives that we could be ashamed of.”

    Why men? The topic is focusing on one man’s discretion not “all”. This Board should be held to the highest standards as the men and women in blue that they are charged to oversee. No exceptions.

  2. Someone please explain to me why Mr. Hicks is serving on the Reparations Task Force after what I just read about him in your reporting?

  3. This was not a duplicate comment, it was in addition to the previous comment. Someone please explain to me why Mr. Hicks is serving on the Reparations Task Force after what I just read about him in your reporting?

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