Detroit, MI

Detroit Police Commissioners Blame Each Other Over Failure to Legally Fill Two Key Positions

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

The City of Detroit has announced Dec. 15 deadline for the board secretary and chief investigator positions to be properly filled, at which time current interim employees in these positions will be fired

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Photo byF. D. Richards/flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Months ago the Detroit’s Board of Police Commissioners (DBOPC) received a notification from the city stating that they have been defying the City Charter for a number of years. In particular, they have been reluctant to hire two key staff members that would make it possible to carry out effective oversite of the Detroit Police Department (DPD).

Regulations in the City Charter state that it is not allowed for the board secretary and chief investigator positions to be filled by individuals who have worked for the City of Detroit in the last three years. The positions have been illegally filled by interim employees who were actually city employees at the time they were hired since 2020.

This is not the first time the DBOPC has been told they cannot fill these two positions with the current employees and must make permanently hire appropriate candidates in keeping with the City Charter. The issue has been brought up at commission meetings for at least a year.

The Chairman of the DBOPC, Bryan Ferguson said that they were told by the city’s HR Department that it is busy helping to fill positions for other boards along with additional positions around the city. Ferguson also claimed that the committee that is in charge of collaborating with HR has been “stringing the process out”.

The cities HR Department, unwilling to take all the blame, fired back with HR officials reporting that the board received dozens of applicants for the positions over the last two years. Now the DBOPC says it is willing to do something about this problem.

Those responsible for these hirings began to address the situation in earnest after the board received a stern letter the end of last month from Late Mallet’s Law Department which said that the city will terminate both interim board secretary Melanie White and interim chief investigator Lawrence Akbar from their positions on Dec. 15.

Others are also attempting to skirt responsibility for the firing problem. As chair of the Personnel & Training Committee, Commissioner Willie Bell has headed the hiring process since March. Last week, Ferguson made the announcement made the announcement that Bell would no longer retain that position and Commissioner Hernandez will assume to job.

Ferguson placed the blame for the personnel troubles at Bell’s feet. He told Outlier Media that job candidates dropped out because the hiring process was taking too long under Bell’s leadership. He gave the example of résumés and applications that were submitted in June were not reviewed until earlier this month.

In the announcement Ferguson said he requested that Bell and the HR Department have the committee’s meetings occur more than once a month, so they could conduct more interviews, however he wasn’t successful until very recently.

Bell placed responsibility for the HR Department was to blame for the holdups in hiring for the two positions squarely on the shoulders of the HR Department. He added that he didn’t believe that the board has the power to fire Akbar and White.

Akbar and White have not only been filling the interim positions but they’ve also been expected to continue carrying out the duties of their old positions at the same time. They were also paid for both positions. Records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request showed that in 2021 Akbar made $102,949 while White made $113,533.

After Akbar and White’s are terminated from their interim positions, they will be permitted to resume their former BOPC positions.

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