Mapping Police Brutality/Misconduct

This map displays 72 allegations of brutality and misconduct by African American citizens against the Detroit Police Department between the years 1957 and 1963, located in the city's racial geography and documented through archival and newspaper research. The map also includes police killings of civilians. Most of these incidents came from the records of the NAACP or newspaper articles in the Michigan Chronicle, Detroit's African American weekly. Very few African Americans filed complaints directly with the DPD, because they feared violent reprisals, as Isaiah McKinnon explains in the interview at the bottom of this page. Click on each point to see the name of the victim, date of the incident, and a description.

All Police Incidents: Brutality, Misconduct, and Homicides of Civilians (1957-1963)

Key Findings

*Note: this map only represents incidents found through extensive research in archives and databases and comes nowhere close to documenting all actual instances of police misconduct and brutality that occurred in Detroit during these years.

Isaiah McKinnon's Story: Police Brutality as Part of Everyday Life

Isaiah (Ike) McKinnon grew up in a public housing project in segregated Detroit after his family moved north from Alabama. He served in the military after graduating from high school and then joined the Detroit Police Department in 1965, and he eventually became chief of police in the 1990s. In this interview segment, McKinnon describes a brutal unprovoked attack and racist verbal abuse that he suffered at the hands of white DPD officers as a 14-year-old boy in 1957. McKinnon further explains that he did not tell his parents, because everyone in the community knew that "if a black person went to the precinct station to make a complaint they would be locked up or probably beaten up." He also cites this encounter as the reason he decided to become a police officer, to try to change a racist system from within.  

"I was this really good kid who never had done anything wrong, never had any interaction with the police whatsoever . . . They threw me up against the car . . . The more I questioned, the more they beat me up"-Ike McKinnon

Sources

Michigan Chronicle

NAACP Detroit Branch Records, Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University

American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan/Metropolitan Detroit Branch Collection, Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University

Mayor’s Papers, Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Hearings before the United States Commission on Civil Rights, Detroit, Michigan, December 14-15, 1960, Folder 001481-025-0244, Papers of the NAACP, Major Campaigns-Legal Department Files, National Archives

Detroit Commissions on Community Relations (DCCR)/Human Rights Department, Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University

Isaiah (Ike) McKinnon Interview, Part 1, December 3, 2019, https://lsa-dss.mivideo.it.umich.edu/media/t/1_rxtil0md/145739741

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