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Lawsuit filed against Southfield PD claiming excessive force

Chief defends officers

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published June 23, 2020


SOUTHFIELD — A local woman said that officers knowingly tased her while she was pregnant, causing her to miscarry, earlier this year.

A lawsuit filed June 12 in U.S. District Court alleges that three Southfield Police Department officers used excessive force against Crystal White, 38, when she was trying to leave her home.

According to the suit, on Jan. 9, White was involved in a verbal altercation with her mom, her sister and her brother-in-law at her mother’s home in Southfield. Police were called to the location for the disturbance.

When police arrived, they parked down the street and approached on foot, according to court documents, while White was packing her vehicle to leave.

The suit alleges the officers “immediately accused” White of being armed, even though she lifted up her top to show otherwise. The three officers then attacked White, according to the suit, by punching her in the face. The suit also alleges that an officer tased White in the abdomen while she was 12 weeks pregnant.

As a result of this incident, the suit says, White’s unborn baby died Feb. 22.

White, who is represented by Geoffrey Fieger, is suing the Southfield Police Department for damages in excess of $75,000.

According to the suit, White suffered lacerations in and around her mouth, multiple loose or broken teeth, bruising throughout her entire body, a miscarriage, pain and suffering, anxiety, mental anguish, humiliation and/or mortification, present and future economic loss, and medical and hospital expenses.

On June 15, Chief Elvin Barren hosted a press conference at the Southfield Police Department to show dash cam video of the incident and to show evidence photos of White after the altercation with police.

Barren said the video of the incident shows discrepancies between what happened and White’s account.

“If we do wrong ... I will stand here and hold those accountable, and our officers know that,” Barren said. “If you look at the narrative that was suggested, that we knowingly would tase a pregnant woman, that is appalling to me. That is a gross negligence and it lands on criminality.”

The dash cam video footage shows officers pull up to the residence and meet White in the driveway. The officers tell White to stop walking toward them multiple times and to drop whatever is in her hands.

“I didn’t do anything,” White says, as she keeps walking toward the officers. “I have no weapons.”

The video shows White lifting up her dress to her shoulders to show she was unarmed. Officers again ask White to stop.

The video footage shows White continue walking toward the officer. At this point, a taser is deployed, and White and the officers get into a scuffle.

The video shows the scuffle move behind a car parked in the street, where White is apparently detained.

At the press conference, police officials also showed video of the back seat of the police car where White was placed after she was detained. At this time, she tells the officer she is five weeks pregnant and suffers from some mental health issues but is not currently taking medication. She also tells the officers she wanted to take her 6-year-old daughter to Ohio, which is why she was trying to leave.

Later in the video, White asks if she’s going to jail. The officer responds by telling her she’s going to the hospital for a mental health evaluation.

Barren said during the press conference that no charges were filed against White following the incident.

Evidence photos of White’s injuries were also shown, closeups of lacerations around her mouth and a scratch on her arm.

Barren said White was punched in the head during the scuffle, and that the taser deployment was weak due to a lack of connectivity.

“We will continue to be honest with the community and share information with the community. As we always say, police chiefs set the tone for their organization. If there is improper conduct, I’m to be held accountable,” Barren said. “What I won’t stand for is for it to be suggested that this Police Department because of race treats our citizens improperly. What I won’t stand for is the suggestion that this Police Department would knowingly tase a pregnant woman.”

Fieger did not return a request for comment by press time.