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Godbee, distraction and dysfunction

A week after allegations of extramarital affairs with his subordinates, the airwaves are still filled with the salacious stories of former police chief Ralph Godbee and the future leadership of the police department. At the time the news broke of Godbee’s relationship with another police officer, the Michigan Citizen had just published an article, “Police near mutiny,” which focused on the cuts the city made to the Detroit Police Department causing internal dissatisfaction and dissension.

Godbee’s “sex scandal,” as reported by local media, all but eclipsed the cuts and the many other issues the department faces. Detroit is facing an unprecedented set of challenges — rising violent and property crime coupled with structural financial inadequacies.

Pay attention to the wrong news source and one would believe the rise in crime could be blamed on the shamed chief’s indiscretions. The media chorus called for Godbee’s resignation, as if this was the summation of the department’s problems. The Detroit media was focused on the most salacious details, airing images of a female officer with a gun in her mouth and interviews with her mother. The mostly white newsroom obsession with sex scandals in this 86 percent Black city is beyond troubling — it’s pathological.

The city’s police department is in crisis and interviews with women who have had sex with Godbee are a distraction. Last week, off-duty officers stood outside Comerica Park handing out notices to suburbanites to “enter the city at their own risk.” The flyers stoked the fears of those who don’t live in the city about out of control crime.

Young people are killed every week. Detroiters are robbed every day. The police don’t come when you call. Crime in the city is out of control but so is the dysfunctional police department.  Consider what this means in a city where the residents navigate a myriad of social, political and financial ills (municipal and otherwise). The sex is a distraction. From officers who say they slept their way into promotions to mutinous officers terrorizing visitors at entertainment venues, a cleanup of the beleaguered department is long overdue. If these officers behave so inappropriately in the public sphere, what are they doing to the residents they stop?

DPD’s dysfunction begs the question, “Who is in charge?” Godbee has retired. Chester Logan has been made the city’s top cop. We hope there’s no past there that comes to haunt us before Mayor Bing completes his national search to find new leadership. Unfortunately, if the mayor’s record is any indication, he may be incapable of finding a viable chief during a time the city needs it most. Detroit residents deserve a respectful, responsive police department.

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