Gun-toting reserve cops, Brenda Jones’ quandary, 300+ human remains: Your Wednesday briefing

“Morning Briefing” is a new feature in Motor City Muckraker to keep you informed as we add award-winning reporters to our independent newsroom that soon will be a nonprofit watchdog. Your donations are key to our ability to produce more vigorous, meaningful, nonpartisan journalism at a time when news rooms are cutting back on impactful, investigative stories.

These are the top stories you’re waking up to:

Thousands of gun-toting, unlicensed civilians work without oversight

About 3,000 gun-toting civilians with no licenses work alongside licensed police officers with no oversight in Michigan, and some of them are breaking the law or are involved in questionable conduct.

In one case, the former head of a hate group was a civilian officer for western Michigan police departments. In another, a Flint reserve officer was convicted of illegally detaining teenagers at gunpoint, a Detroit Free Press investigation found.

Without oversight, the reserve officers pose a serious risk to the public.

“You have a person carrying a gun who can take someone’s life in the right circumstances, someone who has a badge and authority, who can take away their personal freedoms against the Constitution,” said David Harvey, former executive director of MCOLES.

Tracking down 300+ remains at funeral homes is tough task

The side of the former Cantrell Funeral Home at Mack and Garland. Photo by Steve Neavling.

Authorities are trying to track down the families of more than 300 remains found at two funeral homes since April.

The Detroit News released the names of 230 of the 269 cremated remains found inside Cantrell Funeral Home in Detroit, where state inspectors recently found the bodies of infants.

Brian Joseph, the owner of Verheyden Funeral Homes in Grosse Pointe Park, is lending a hand and already reached 14 families who want their family members’ remains.

So far, more than 25 of the remains have been identified as veterans.

Police on Friday found 63 fetuses from Perry Funeral Home on Trumbull Avenue.

“To paraphrase holy Father Francis, it’s our obligation to help those marginalized and ones in need … these remains were put in a building somewhere. It’s our duty,” Joseph told The Detroit News. “If we can’t bury our dead, we are no better than a Third World country.”

Councilwoman Jones may be barred from simultaneously serving on Congress

Detroit Council President Brenda Jones

Experts are unsure whether Democrat Brenda Jones can simultaneously serve on the Detroit City Council and U.S. Congress.

“There isn’t historical precedent for allowing the holding of two offices, but this is something we are evaluating,” House Speaker Paul Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong told The Detroit News

Jones won the August primary and has no general election opponent. Her seven-week term would begin after the November election.

While Jones won the special primary election to serve the remainder of former U.S. Re. John Conners Jr.’s term, she lost a separate election to serve a full two-year term. That contest was one by former state Rep. Rashida Tliab, a progressive Democrat.

The Detroit News story does not mention the Michigan Incompatible Public Offices Act, which bars candidates from simultaneously serving on city council and Congress.

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Steve Neavling

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.