injusticebusters logo

When cable TV came to Saskatoon in the late 70s, we started to get Detroit news. Whoa! It was violent. But now Saskatoon has caught up. Detroit's population is just under a million and 80% black. Saskatoon has about 20% of that population and is 80% white. Sheila Steele,

Detroit Police

Detroit Police Chief Oliver resigns

Jerry Oliver

Detroit Police Chief Jerry Oliver, shown (right) on March 21, 2002, resigned Friday amid a controversy that he failed to declare a loaded pistol when he boarded a flight and news that he is not yet a licensed, sworn police officer in Michigan.

About Jerry Oliver
Name: Jerry Alton Oliver Sr.
Age: 56 (Born March 2, 1947)
Education: Master's degree in public administration and a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, both from Arizona State University; graduate of the FBI's 21st national Executive Institute.
Experience: Detroit, police chief, January 2002 to October 2003; Richmond, Va., police chief, May 1995 to January 2002; Pasadena, Calif., police chief, June 1991 to May 1995; director of drug policy, Memphis, Tenn., 1990; assistant chief of police, Phoenix, where he started his police career in 1971.
Family: Wife Felicia; twin sons, Joshua and Jacob.
Source: Detroit Police Department.

DETROIT -- Detroit Police Chief Jerry A. Oliver Sr. announced his resignation Friday afternoon after 18 months on the job.

At a somber news conference in Detroit Police Department headquarters, Oliver said he decided to leave because the controversy surrounding him, which he called "all the misinformation, all the rumors," had hindered his ability to do his job.

"This is a big job. I'm not going to allow this to become a sideshow," said Oliver, who was flanked by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. "It's not about any other issues. I'm a public servant."

The latest controversy to hit Oliver is that he may face charges for failing to tell officials that he had his .25-caliber pistol in his luggage before taking a flight Oct. 18 from Detroit Metropolitan Airport to Philadelphia.

Oliver said he didn't think he had to register the personal weapon in Michigan, where he had not yet become a licensed, sworn police officer. He has been a sworn officer in other departments and said he has had the gun for years.

Officials from the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards said Oliver was in the process of becoming a sworn officer.

The incident presented a dilemma for the mayor, when crime numbers continued to fall on Oliver's watch. At the same time, Oliver has rankled many within the department with a hard-line approach to punishing officers who face their own criminal troubles, often for domestic violence.

Kilpatrick, who appointed Oliver after conducting a national search, said he was saddened by the chief's decision to resign.

"I'm very disappointed, very disappointed that the chief is not going to be the chief anymore," the mayor said.

Kilpatrick praised Oliver, the first chief to come from outside the department since 1968, for doing what he called a "miraculous" job. Oliver got rid of an "antiquated command structure (and) led the Detroit Police Department kicking and screaming into the 21st century," he said.

An acting chief will be appointed next week, said Kilpatrick, who declined to say whether he would conduct a national search for a chief.

City Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel said she is "deeply saddened by Chief Oliver's necessary resignation."

"I believe the chief has been the most significant champion for reform in the Detroit Police Department in the last 40 years," Cockrel said.

Still, Cockrel, who on Friday cosponsored a resolution with Councilwoman JoAnn Watson that called for the mayor to investigate Oliver and the gun controversy, said Oliver's integrity had come into question.

"I think he has done the correct thing for the organization," she said.

A Web site -- -- created by former Officer John Bennett showed a cartoon of Kilpatrick kicking Oliver. Above it is a headline "Moving the Department forward."

The shake-up comes at a critical moment for the department, which is in the early stages of complying with two federal court orders on the department's policies about using of force and questioning of witnesses.

Officer Laura Isom, president of the Detroit Police Command Officers Association, said officers wish Oliver well, despite having had differences in the past.

"We didn't really feel that the lines of communication were open with Chief Oliver," Isom said. "Sometimes somebody can listen to you, but to really work things out there has to be some give and take. "Chief Oliver was least communicative in terms of having a cooperative effort."

Lt. Ricardo Moore said he looked forward to "a new beginning with a new chief."

"Whoever it will be, hopefully the dept will go in a new direction," Moore said. "I have had a problem in past with the chief. But, hopefully, now with a new chief all of these problems will be resolved."

The mayor said he doesn't expect Oliver's resignation to affect the reform effort, which is being overseen by an outside monitor.

Oliver, however, noted that "there's monumental work to do" to improve the department.

But he said the department is making changes.

"Real reform is under way that you can see in the streets and the stores and the neighborhood," Oliver said.

As for the possible gun charge against Oliver, Duggan said Thursday that investigators still needed to talk to police officers who were with Oliver and with employees of Northwest Airlines before deciding whether to file any charge.

A federal gun check showed that Oliver bought the pistol in Arizona 30 years ago. Oliver said the gun is licensed in Richmond, Va., where he was chief before coming to Detroit in February 2002.

Duggan declined to discuss what charges are possible in the case.

Oliver, who was fined by federal authorities in the matter, has not discussed it with Duggan's office.

Detroit police called the worst

Federal investigators reached a bruising conclusion about Detroit police, condemning the department as the most troubled force they have seen in 10 years of scrutinizing police nationwide, according to documents obtained by the Free Press.

U.S. Justice Department officials who investigate police misconduct told Detroit police officials they "have never seen problems as embedded and entrenched as in the DPD," according to documents prepared by Police Chief Jerry Oliver's staff to brief the department's 3,900 officers earlier this year.

Today, city and federal officials will discuss their plan to reduce the use of lethal force, end illegal detention of witnesses and improve conditions in police lockups. The agreement, scheduled to be detailed at noon in the U.S. Attorney's Office in downtown Detroit, calls for a federal monitor to oversee the department for at least the next five years.

Documents given to officers in March quoted U.S. Justice Department officials as saying Detroit's Police Department needs "strict judicial oversight."

On Wednesday, Oliver said that even after 17 months on the job, he's still learning how deep the trouble runs. "The last couple months here have been a real eye-opener," he said.

Among the improvements federal officials will require is increasing the number of nonlethal weapons police carry, Oliver said. Options include batons and Tasers, which are like electronic stun guns. "We're being mandated to have an array" of weapons, the chief said.

The city also may have to make costly repairs to decrepit police lockups. "You're talking about facilities that are antique in many ways," Oliver said.

What the agreement doesn't do is pay for improvements.

"The Department of Justice doesn't bring money," Oliver said. "It's going to be big numbers."

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Justice Department officials declined to discuss details of the agreement, such as whether it is a memorandum of understanding or a consent decree. The latter is a more drastic and potentially costly cure for the department, and requires a judge's order.

"People anticipate it's going to be a consent decree," Oliver said.

Whatever happens, the chief said he welcomes an end to the 30-month federal civil rights investigation into the department, which began after Free Press stories about fatal police shootings prompted then-Mayor Dennis Archer to ask the U.S. Justice Department for help.

The newspaper reported that Detroit led the nation's large cities in the number of per-capita shootings of citizens by police. It later reported that police detained homicide witnesses without required court authorization and that 14 people died in police lockups from 1998 to 2001.

The Justice Department probe concentrated on all three situations, according to police.

Although a monitor will reduce some of Kilpatrick and Oliver's authority to run the department as they see fit, the chief said the outsider could provide him a valuable ally in reforming the department.

"It gives me more power, more leverage, to get the kind of important things done that we need," Oliver said, adding that it will help him overcome union opposition.

But Detroit Police Officers Association Vice President Derrick Royal said he does not believe the agreement gives Oliver broader authority.

"There is nothing in there that really violates our contract," he said. Union officials expected to meet with Justice Department officials to discuss the agreement Wednesday night.

Oliver said city officials are not worried about the terms of the agreement.

"Everything that's in that agreement, we're OK with," he said. "We've either negotiated or agreed that's something we should be doing."

Police Department monitors are nothing new.

In Cincinnati, Saul Green, former U.S. attorney in Detroit, is serving as a monitor in an agreement between the city and Justice Department. Green, who began his duties in December, said he files progress reports with the federal court every 90 days.

Green said he is working with a team of 10 experts from around the country as part of the agreement to help create an early warning system for problem officers and address the department's use-of-force procedures and citizen complaint process.

"The monitor is ultimately responsible for monitoring activities, but there's always a team of people involved," Green said. "There's a use-of-force expert, an expert in community policing and an expert in training."

Green and the 10 team members, combined, are being paid about $800,000 annually, he said. His duties take him to Cincinnati at least once a month.

"It takes a while to get the ball rolling," Green said Wednesday. "You've got different parties at the table having to communicate in ways they haven't in the past."