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February 6, 2014

$75K settles case after woman’s hair cut in police custody

Officer fired, city also pays for damage to motel room that prompted arrest in November

By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer

WARREN — Warren paid $75,000 last month and agreed to foot the bill for $1,386 in damages to a motel room allegedly caused by a woman whose hair weave was cut out by an officer assigned to the city jail in November.

The terms of the “global settlement,” approved by the Warren City Council in January and confirmed by documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request on Feb. 6, also dropped all criminal charges against Charda Gregory, 22, of Detroit.

Police said Gregory was arrested early on Nov. 13 by officers called to the Suez Motel, on Eight Mile Road between Ryan and Dequindre. She was taken to Warren’s police headquarters and later charged with separate counts of malicious destruction of property for allegedly damaging a motel room and the window frame of a Warren police car.

Warren Police Commissioner Jere Green said Macomb County prosecutors reviewed video recorded inside of the Warren jail after police officer Bernadette Najor, who was assigned to work in the lock-up, sought to also charge Gregory with resisting arrest during the booking process. Deputy Police Commissioner Louis Galasso said prosecutors declined to authorize the resisting and obstruction charge.

Concerned about the validity of Najor’s allegation that Gregory resisted arrest, based on the decision of prosecutors, and after reading the reports from other officers present in the jail, Galasso said he reviewed the video footage that showed Gregory, who appeared to be intoxicated, strapped into a four-point restraining chair while Najor cut out her sewn-in natural hair weave with a pair of scissors.

Green said Najor was immediately placed on paid administrative leave while the incident was reviewed. He said she never reported the use of force, as is required, by filing a separate document.

When she was eventually interviewed, Galasso said Najor claimed she acted within departmental policy and that she removed the hair weave to eliminate the possibility that it could be used for another purpose while Gregory was in custody.

Galasso said Najor remained on administrative leave until she was fired on Dec. 13. 

Green said the matter would be set for a hearing with an independent arbitrator appointed by city human resources administrators. The arbitrator will then review the facts relevant to the incident, including the department’s policies and Najor’s actions, and ultimately determine whether she would get her job back.

“The fact that she refused to claim any responsibility or that she thinks that’s right is alarming to me as it pertains to her employment,” Green said Feb. 4. “We can talk about policies and procedures and the rules and regulations all we want. There are two simple things: right and wrong. This was wrong.”

Officer Mike Sauger, president of the Warren Police Officers Association, could not be reached for comment at press time.

The council unanimously voted to approve the settlement on Jan. 14 at the recommendation of the city’s legal staff after meeting in a closed session the day before.

Documents also show the city wrote a check for $1,386.82 to pay for damage to a room at the Suez Motel.

The terms of the agreement released the city and its police officers from any future claims and permitted all parities involved to avoid any admission of liability. 

“We did enter into a global settlement of the case because we thought it was in the best interest of the taxpayers of the city of Warren to settle this matter,” Warren City Attorney David Griem said. “It was determined it was in the best interest of the Warren taxpayers and the public at large.”

The global settlement covered both the local criminal charges and any potential civil litigation.

Defense attorney Paul Misukewicz, who represented Gregory in the criminal matter and negotiated the out-of-court civil settlement, said his client has a 2-year-old son and that she works as a beautician. He said she woke up in the Suez Motel Nov. 13 after partying at a house in Detroit and that she didn’t know where she was.  

“She woke up and was basically a stranger in a strange land, had no idea who these people were,” Misukewicz said. “She didn’t recall a lot about the actual incident until I had an opportunity to show her the video. She was pretty much mortified.”

Misukewicz said Gregory was satisfied with the settlement and with the action taken by the Warren Police Department after administrators learned what happened.

Attempts to reach Najor and her union legal representation for comment were unsuccessful at press time.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brian Louwers at brianlouwers@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1089.

I'm not sure what to think of this. I mean, maybe the hair weave shouldn't have been cut out, but a $75,000 settlement seems to be an example of what's wrong with this country. It just seems a bit much.

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