An internal investigation has determined that Detroit police did not use excessive force by pushing Fox 2 reporter M.L. Elrick as he tried to interview Councilman George Cushingberry Jr. outside of a public meeting.
Video showed the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter getting prepared to ask Cushingberry a question at the entrance of the meeting when two officers forcefully pushed Elrick back.
Below is the full, unedited police response to the Jan. 28 encounter.
On January 28, 2014, a city council meeting was scheduled to be in session at Bethel A.M.E. Church. Fox 2 News, correspondent, Mr. Michael L. Elrick, and Fox 2 News camera man, Mr. Alex Korniencko, arrived at the church to cover the event. While attempting to interview Council President Pro-Tem George Cushingberry, Mr. M. Elrick alleged that he was pushed by Detroit Police Sergeant Robert Mitchell and Officer Animesh Patel, both assigned to Executive Protection Unit for the Detroit Police Department. A thorough intervestigation was conducted by the department’s Professional Standards Bureau Written statements were obtained from all eleven witnesses two of which were indepoendent witnesses.
The investigation determined that Mr. Elrick and his camera man had in positioned themselves for the arrival of Councilman Pro – Tem Cushingberry at the front entrance of the church. It was also determined that Officer Patel, who was present, requested that Mr. Elrick move from his location due to the area being restricted. Witnesses mentioned that Mr. Elrick became irritated and cited to the officer that he had the right to be present as a journalist. Investigators then determined that Mr. Elrick positioned himself to obstruct the entrance way of the sanctuary.
As Councilman President Pro – Tem Cushingberry arrived, Sergeant Mitchell attempted to escort him to the sanctuary without interference due to him being late. This is a common practice when the council meetings are held in a public venue.
At that time Mr. Elrick attempted to push past Sergeant Mitchell, preventing forward progress of Councilman President Pro – Tem Cushingberry.
Subsequently, Mr. Elrick’s body made contact with Sergeant Mitchell’s left shoulder and arm. Sergeant Mitchell responded by raising both his arms in an upward and outward position “in a cross position” to allow Council President Pro-Tem Cushingberry to pass. Mr. Elrick continued pushing forward causing Sergeant Mitchell’s right arm to be positioned between Mr. Elrick and President Pro Tem Cushingberry. At that time Sergeant Mitchell twisted his body to the right with both hands open and arms parallel to the floor.
Officer Patel in turn assisted Sergeant Mitchell by grabbing Mr. Elrick by the coat to move him out of the pathway. Mr. Elrick was subsequently moved to the glass wall adjacent to the door frame. This action allowed Council President Pro-Tem Cushingberry to enter the sanctuary without further interference.
Evidence revealed that Mr. Elrick and his camera man followed Sergeant Mitchell down the corridor and questioned him incessantly. The positioning of Sergeant Mitchell and Officer Patel would have been the same under any circumstance where a reporter interferes with a citizen’s right to enter a building or room. The actions of Mr. Michael L. Elrick did not rise to that of a crime. Concurrently the actions and duty of the executive protection officers did not violate policy or procedure.
It has been determined that the actions of Sergeant Robert Mitchell and Officer Animesh Patel were within accordance of the policies and procedures of the Detroit Police Department. It is further determined that at no point does Sergeant Mitchell appear to make or provide preferential treatment for Council President Pro-Tem Cushingberry.
Based on the assessment of all of the evidence provided, this complaint is considered to be “not sustained”. Sergeant Mitchell will resume his position as the Officer in Charge of the Executive Protection effective Monday February 24, 2014
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.