Social Justice Groups Demand Suspension of Controversial Detroit Task Force, Investigation into Killing of US Citizen by Immigration Agent

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
May 7, 2015 5:15 pm

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DETROIT— Reflecting deepening concern over the controversial shooting death of 20-year-old Terrance Kellom by a federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent, the ACLU of Michigan joined on Thursday with the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Michigan United to call for the suspension and defunding of the multi-jurisdictional task force whose attempt to apprehend Kellom precipitated the killing.

In a joint letter addressed to US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, US District Attorney Barbara McQuade and ICE director Sarah Saldana, the organizations demanded that the Detroit Fugitive Apprehension Team (DFAT) be taken off the street and defunded until investigations prove the task force is in full legal and regulatory compliance and poses no safety threat to the neighborhoods where they operate. Noting that the federal agent who killed Kellom has previously been charged with criminal assault against his ex-wife and sued for false arrest and assault as a Detroit policeman, the organizations also call for a thorough federal investigation of the April 28 slaying.

“This collective statement was critical because the killing of Terrance Kellom—not unlike the police slaying of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and the deaths of black men nationwide at the hands of law enforcement—cannot be looked at in isolation,” explained Mark Fancher, the staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan Racial Justice Project. “Instead, we’re seeing a lethal pattern that demands a much broader look at the systemic factors involved, from the training methods employed to the standards for determining the fitness of these officers to serve. Above all, we need transparency and accountability.”

The letter, which was also sent to Detroit Police Chief James Craig and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, calls for the following additional steps:

· Mandatory use of body cameras by all task forces working in Detroit

· Psychological and substance abuse screening for all officers—but especially those who participate in raids such as the one where Kellom died

· The substitution of “deadly force protocols” with measures and policies that incorporate a standard oriented toward “preservation of life” and that permit the use of lethal force only as a measure of last resort

The joint letter also connects the slaying of Kellom to the high-profile spate of police killings of other African-Americans and raises some disturbing questions about the Detroit incident, in which Kellom was shot as many as 10 times by ICE agent Mitchell Quinn after Quinn showed up to arrest him. Although law-enforcement officials claim Kellom charged the ICE agent with a hammer before the shooting, Kellom’s father has vehemently and repeatedly denied that his son was armed or belligerent.

“With respect to the killing of Terrance Kellom, there are serious questions that beg for answers,” the letter reads. “The first is why an agent from ICE, whose mission is to enforce our nation’s immigration laws, was engaged in this particular fugitive apprehension effort. Kellom was a US citizen. We question whether ICE agents are adequately trained to deal with non-immigration matters.”

The letter also points out that the task force consisted of federal operatives from other agencies — including the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; and the Social Security Administration— and seeks answers about their roles as well: “Explanations for the involvement of the federal agencies will also be helpful in evaluating not only the Kellom killing, but also any benefits or liabilities of the task force’s operations.”

A copy of the letter can be viewed here

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