A Detroit police sergeant who has been sued at least eight times since 2009 and has been the subject of dozens of civilian complaints was removed from patrol duty last week.
Sgt. Stephen Kue had been accused of harassing citizens of color and using racist language, an investigation by 7 Action News showed. Kue was removed just hours after the details of the allegations were made public. During Kue’s 12 years of service with the Detroit Police Department, he has been the subject of 85 civilian complaints. That is more than ten times the average for officers in the department, which stands about eight.
According to Julie Hurwitz, an attorney suing Kue and the department on behalf of a man she says was wrongly shot at and arrested, Kue’s track record is “mind-blowing.”
She told 7 Action News, Kue “had a history of citizen complaints and force investigations within the department that was as long, longer, more extensive than any officer’s personnel history I’ve ever seen.”
According to internal records, nearly the all the complainants who listed their race were non-white, and almost all of those people were Black.
Chris Graveline, the director of DPD’s Professional Standards Division, called the racial data a “concerning pattern.”
Two brothers claimed in a complaint that they were randomly accused of possessing drugs by Kue as they stood in the street near their home and that Kue used the N-word to refer to them several times. In total, four people told investigators Kue had used the slur. The complaint was sustained, but Kue appealed and a commanding officer later dismissed the charge without providing a reason.
Many of the complaints against Kue allege he targeted people of color, used racially demeaning language and used or threatened to use excessive force.
Quory Collins, a 38-year-old Black man, described Kue as “a gangster with a badge.”
In 2017 he was crossing the street close to where his mother and grandmother lived when Kue and his partner pulled up and frisked him. He was not found to be in possession of anything illegal, but after he and Kue exchanged insults, the officer cuffed him and told him, “My trigger finger is itching. I dare you to move. I dare you to move.”
The complaint was ultimately dismissed after other officers on the scene said they didn’t recall hearing Kue use the language. Amid Collins’ complaint and many others, Kue was promoted to sergeant in 2018.
When it comes to the eight lawsuits Kue has faced, department officials apparently weren’t aware of the litigation, as the suits were not included in Kue’s internal officer profile. In the lawsuits, which date back to 2009, Kue is typically one of several officers accused of assault and battery, deprivation of civil rights and gross negligence on various occasions. The suits have proved costly for taxpayers.
After Kue and other officers were accused in 2014 of raiding the wrong house and tackling the homeowner, the case was settled for $87,500, although the city admitted no wrongdoing. Following a second wrongful raid suit involving Kue, the family sued and settled for $130,000. In total, suits ivolving Kue have cost Detroit taxpayers $830,000.
Interim Police Chief James White, who took over the job on June 1 when former Chief James Craig retired, has pulled Kue from patrolling the street and is personally reviewing all 85 complaints against him.
“The Detroit Police Department is deeply troubled and disappointed by the perceived pattern of conduct and behavior shown by Sergeant Kue. I’ve immediately launched a full investigation and removed him from patrol and placed him on administrative duty. I will personally review each complaint against Sgt. Kue as well as, review the previous actions of the command team member(s) who dismissed the disturbing allegations,” White said in a statement.