Interrogation: Torture and False Convictions
Aside from incidents of police misconduct in the form of street-level enforcement and raids, misconduct also took place within the interrogation room. This took shape through officers holding suspects longer than necessary, “drag-net” style roundups in search of possible suspects, and physical abuse. This then led to false convictions, a particularly harmful result in the era of mandatory minimums.
In 2015, Aaron Miguel Cantú, a reporter for The Intercept, investigated claims of police torture in Detroit during the war on Crack. Through this inquiry, Cantú came into contact with a woman by the name of Lara Hill, who was investigated by the Detroit Police Department in connection with a shooting outside of a presumed crack house. When asked about her experience being questioned by the DPD, Hill stated “They harassed me, they assaulted me, and then they terrorized me. They put me in a damn closet. They waited until I urinated on myself. And I sat in that urination for hours, do you hear me? I don’t even know how long I was in that building… All I know is it was dark.” Lara Hill specifically mentioned an officer by the name of Ronald Sanders, a sergeant known for his aggressive style of interrogation.
In accordance with Hill's allegations of misconduct, there are several additional sources that also support her claim. In a sequence of affadavits pointing to instances of physcial and emotional torture, it can be seen that this was a practice rather than an isolated incident. For the safety and protection of the victims, the following series of excerpts from these affadavits have been selected with the intention of keeping all identities anonymous. However, in order to demonstrate the pattern of abuse, each affadavit has been lettered to indicate each individual interview subject. For reasons of efficiency, only one key excerpt from each subject is featured.
Beyond interrogation room torture, serious discrepancies involving arrest practices are also worth consideration. One such example was brought to light on October 6, 1988, when Calvin Sherrod, a representative of R.E.S.P.E.C.T., a grassroots organization for economic equality, spoke before the commissioners meeting detailing the arrest and overnight detainment of an eleven year old girl. The child, the daughter of a R.E.S.P.E.C.T. organizer, was removed from a peaceful protest at which her parents were participating. Several other organizers were also arrested.
Mass arrests, known as drag-nets, were also common practice at this time. Joe Swickard, a former reporter for the Detroit Free Press who covered policing in the 1980s, stated that drag-net policing was a common practice in order to clean up the streets of Detroit, specifically in response to the perceived increasing issue of Crack.
It is important to clarify that Ronald Sanders is not the only officer guilty of this level of abuse. Although claims against him are immediately accessible, this does not mean that Like all other issues of misconduct mentioned in the previous pages of this exhibit, these actions were not perpetrated singlehandedly, as they came as a result of policy and overall department culture.