A pair of Detroit officers fired for making “derogatory, demoralizing and racially insensitive” remarks during a traffic stop involving an African-American woman will not be charged, the Wayne County Prosecutors Office announced Tuesday.
The office launched a review of the incident earlier this year to determine whether the officers involved should face criminal charges.
In January, former officer Gary Steele and his partner, Michael Garrison, conducted a stop near Joy Road and Stout on the city’s west side. The driver, 23-year-old Ariel Moore, was allegedly driving with expired tags.
In its report, the prosecutor’s office said officers signaled for Moore to pull over and explained the reason for the stop, noting that they “maintained a professional demeanor throughout the interaction” with the young woman. Moore was ticketed for the tags but grew upset when the cops told her she couldn’t drive the car back home, as it was being impounded.
She was told she could sit and wait in the car until a tow truck arrived, but she refused and instead to chose to walk to her home a block away.
At the time, it was alleged that Steele and Garrison forced Moore to make the trek home in midst of a polar vortex, with temperatures dipping well below freezing. However, prosecutors said that wasn’t the case.
“The incident was recorded on the DPD body worn camera (BWC) video,” the prosecutor’s office report stated, adding that the “evidence shows that Steele and Garrison had treated the citizen fairly during the official police interaction.”
That changed, however, when Moore started to head home. As she walked away, Steele whipped out his phone and posted a video of her on Snapchat using the “Black Girl Magic” filter. Garrison joined in on the ridicule and is allegedly heard in the background saying “walk of shame” and “Bye Felicia” as Moore disappears from the frame.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig fired Steele over the incident, with Garrison also getting the boot a few weeks later.
“Clearly the video discredited the young lady, who’s a resident of our city, and we recognize that this certainly has the potential of betraying the trust that we have worked so hard to maintain between the police department and our community,” Craig said at the time.
The prosecutor’s office acknowledged that while the officers’ conduct was “reprehensible, disturbing and unprofessional” in nature, the allegations simply weren’t enough to bring criminal charges.
“There is insufficient evidence to criminally charge either officer,” said county prosecutor Kym Worthy. “The allegations reviewed could support other possible liability.”
In its review, Worthy’s office analyzed the incident as a case of misconduct in office. The prosecutor noted that videotaping someone in public is lawful and that the clip was taken, after, not during, the officers’ interaction with Moore.
Additionally, Worthy said there was “insufficient evidence to show that during (Steele’s) interaction with the woman that he treated the woman unfairly or inequitably during the official police interaction.”
“While the Snapchat Video and the comments made on it by Steele are both abhorrent and unbecoming a law enforcement officer, it does not support a charge of misconduct in office,” she wrote. “The alleged comment made by Garrison is also highly disturbing and unacceptable for a law enforcement officer.”
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