Royal Oak police chief apologizes for officers’ mishandling of incident

Attorney general’s Civil Rights Division to investigate

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published August 19, 2019

File photo


ROYAL OAK — The Royal Oak police chief has apologized for how his department responded to a reportedly white woman’s call that a black man was making her uncomfortable — which involved detaining the man for 19 minutes before telling him he was free to go — and the Michigan attorney general’s Civil Rights Division said it is investigating the conduct of the police involved.

On Aug. 13, Royal Oak police responded to a complaint from a woman who stated in a 911 call that she was uncomfortable because a man was “circling her vehicle, staring at her from across the street, and was possibly taking pictures of her and her son,” according to a statement released by Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue.

The incident, which was recorded on a witness’s cellphone video, received heightened attention after being posted online. It shows police speaking to 20-year-old Devin Myers outside of the Inn Season Cafe, 500 E. Fourth St. Witnesses in the video object to police detaining Myers, saying that he is being detained because of his race.

In the video, Myers can be heard saying that he was trying to find a parking spot before heading to meet an acquaintance at the cafe.

In his Aug. 15 statement, O’Donohue apologized to Myers for how he was treated. The statement was released after the Police Department completed an internal investigation into the incident.

“What should have been a very short encounter was extended when the officer involved insisted on getting Mr. Myers’ identification. The officer had no legal right to demand the identification and should have simply advised Mr. Myers why we were there and allowed him to go on his way,” O’Donohue wrote.

He said the officer is a new, probationary officer who made a mistake and will receive remedial training to address the issue.

O’Donohue continued to say that early in the encounter, Myers requested that a supervisor come to the scene, and although the first officer did not call for one, a second officer did.

“The responding supervisor did not handle this situation in a manner I expect Royal Oak supervisors to conduct themselves. He did quickly advise Mr. Myers that he was free to go; however, he did not effectively look into the situation or allow those present the opportunity to express their concerns,” O’Donohue wrote.

He said that the supervisor in question, as well as every supervisor in the Police Department, has since received additional procedural justice training.

During the Aug. 13 incident, O’Donohue said, Myers was verbally detained for approximately 19 minutes total. A supervisor was called to the scene about six minutes into the encounter, arrived approximately 11 minutes later, and told Myers he was free to go two minutes after that, O’Donohue said.

“This is not the practice of the Royal Oak Police Department and it is not acceptable,” O’Donohue wrote. 

“This is an unfortunate incident where the ROPD did not live up to our own standards. Corrective action has been taken and we will continue to hold all members of the ROPD to the highest standards,” he wrote.

On Aug. 14, Royal Oak Mayor Michael Fournier issued a statement in response to the Aug. 13 incident:

“The city of Royal Oak takes nothing more seriously than our responsibility to provide public safety with the highest level of integrity and transparency. We are passionate about being a city that lives and acts according to our values and one where all people from all walks of life, from all racial and ethnic backgrounds feel not just safe, but welcome and embraced as members of our community. We absolutely recognize that racial bias exists and we as a community aspire to be among those working every day to combat it. But, this is not just the work of our officers and public officials alone, but all of us, individually and as a community must put in the effort to recognize and come to terms with our own personal prejudices and biases. We are in the process of evaluating what mistakes have been made and we will own them, we will learn from them, and we will continue to strive to be better in everything we do.”

On Aug. 16, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a statement that she had instructed her Civil Rights Division to investigate police conduct in detaining Myers.

“The Civil Rights Division within the Michigan Department of Attorney General is investigating what occurred in Royal Oak on Tuesday,” Nessel stated. “If ever there are concerns that the civil rights of Michigan residents have been violated, our office stands ready to investigate and pursue such matters.”

The general manager of the Inn Season Cafe, who was on video speaking in defense of Myers, did not return a request for comment by press time.

Myers could not be reached for comment.

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.