Detroit police chief resigns amid reality show scandal
DETROIT (AP) — Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans resigned at the mayor’s request Wednesday, months after a 7-year-old girl was killed in a police raid shadowed by a reality television crew, and hours before a video promoting a prospective new show starring Evans was to be made public.
Mayor Dave Bing’s office announced the surprise change just more than a year into Evans’ tenure. Bing said at an evening news conference that a “combination of things” led him to seek the resignation, but declined to elaborate beyond saying the chief was “compromised in some of the decisions he made.”
Bing publicly reprimanded Evans after the police department’s handling of the May 16 raid on a Detroit family’s home during which 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was killed by a police officer’s bullet. A special response team had been searching for a man wanted in an earlier murder.
“Is it a resignation?” city council member Kwame Kenyatta said of Evans’ departure. “That’s what they always call it. I think you had this coming with the public reprimand.”
The raid was documented by a camera crew for A&E’s reality television show “The First 48,” which was present when the girl was killed. Bing did not know Evans had approved a contract with the show, which had followed Detroit police and homicide investigators for several months.
After the raid, Bing criticized Evans and quickly banned reality television crews from tagging along with police.
But reports soon surfaced about a venture to promote a reality show idea starring Evans and called “The Chief.” WXYZ-TV in Detroit aired a report Wednesday night featuring part of “The Chief” promotional video.
“I’m just doing the job I was asked to do — the only way I know how to do it,” Evans said in the video, which at one point shows him posing with an assault rifle outside a vacant city train station. The video also shows Evans patrolling and making arrests.
“It’s my job to keep the city safe,” he said in the video. “I’ll do whatever it takes.”
WXYZ said it obtained the video from a production company that persuaded Evans to go along with the project.
A WXYZ reporter allowed former Detroit officer John Bennett to view the video Sunday. Bennett runs DetroitUncovered.com, a website often critical of the department and city administration.
“I don’t think Evans wanted that thing to be seen by anybody,” Bennett said. “Bing knew about it. When you see it, you have a good idea as to why I believe and the mayor believes it’s so appalling.”
Former deputy police chief and current council member Gary Brown said Evans had been before the council about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday on another matter. At 1:42 p.m., the mayor’s office sent out a statement saying Evans had resigned.
“You’ve always had some tension between the chief of police and the mayor, and I think it’s a good thing,” Brown said. “The mayor knew about the video. I doubt if it was any one thing.”
Bing lured Evans to Detroit in July 2009 from his longtime post as Wayne County sheriff to replace James Barren, who was fired after less than a year on the job. At the time, Evans was the city’s third police chief in less than a year.
Evans immediately formed teams to target high crime areas of Detroit using data and police reports.
Some community members complained officers’ tactics were excessive. But they were successful. Police have reported major drugs raids where large quantities of cocaine and marijuana, as well as guns, were seized. Homicides, under Evans’ watch, also have been down.
“We appreciate the time and dedication that Warren Evans has given to the Detroit Police Department,” Bing said in Wednesday statement. “He has put the department on a path to reducing crime.”
The police department said Evans was not expected to speak with the media. Assistant Chief Ralph Godbee will lead the department until a new chief is hired.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.