POLICE CHIEF Ella. M. Bully-Cummings
That was the statement from Police Chief Ella M. Bully-Cummings during a recent interview with the Michigan FrontPage, in an effort to improve communication and understanding within the community. Detroit Police Chief Ella M. Bully-Cummings was accompanied by Assistant Chiefs, Ralph Godbee Jr. and Robert Dunlap, Deputy Chief James Tate and Lt. Charles Wilson.
In the wake of reports on crime in the city, Bully-Cummings said she was very concerned about how crime statistics are construed without taking into consideration those factors that are out of the realm of police responsibility.
“I do have to be concerned about Detroit’s national image,” Bully-Cummings said. “And I do have to be concerned about what impacts the people in the City of Detroit. And I’m not, by any means, saying that someone’s child involved in narcotics trafficking is not as important as a low- risk individual that happens to pull up at a gas station to put gas in their car and gets caught in a crossfire or is robbed. But to put things in perspective, between 60 and 75 percent of our homicides in 2007 and the year before had a narcotics nexus, either through drugs, drug locations or people involved in drugs.”
Based on that alone, Bully-Cummings said when you place yourself in a high-risk situation like that, “ the probability is increased that you may become a crime victim.”
According to the 2007 Homicide Analysis, approximately 65 to 70 percent of Detroit homicides are believed to have a narcotics catalyst (this includes cases where the motive is not confirmed but the investigation reveals a strong indication of drug involvement).
Statistics also show that since 2004 – when Bully-Cummings was appointed to head the police department – through 2007, over half a million dollars in illegal drugs have been confiscated. And about 25,000 illegal firearms have been taken off the streets in the last five years. This is very relevant when one considers that out of the 394 homicides reported in 2007, 322 (or 81 percent) were by gunshot. Thus, although it is said that guns don’t kill people, people kill people, it is gun violence that provides the perpetuator with a quick and effective means to accomplish this.
The chief said that yearly compiled homicide statistics are often misleading, sometimes because an assault occurs in one year and the victim dies in another year. Also, there are incidents where a homicide took place in an area outside the city and the body was moved and dumped inside the city.
Chief Bully-Cummings emphasized the importance of community involvement to solve crimes and make Detroit a safer place to live.
“I’m a firm believer that most crime that occurs here in the City of Detroit, somebody knows something,” she said. “ I don’t care if it’s a home invasion, a robbery or rape. Either you brag or you take that stuff home that you stole from somebody and somebody in that house knows that you have it. That’s a huge challenge for us. Trying to get the community to understand that when you zip your mouth closed you are feeding the fuel that drives crime. You really are.”
Reiterating the many factors that cause crime, the chief said that while these factors may cause colds in other locales, because of their extreme manifestations in Detroit we get pneumonia.
“I don’t have to tell you about the factors that influence crime,” she said. “If you look at our poverty rate, our literacy rate, the unemployment rate, we have double digits that well above everybody else that feed into crime. And it also feeds into apathy, the lack of cooperation from witnesses and victims, and the easy access to firearms. It is the non-enforcement of quality-of-life issues.”
“It can’t just be the police. It’s got to be the prosecutor, it’s got to be the courts and it’s got to be the community.”
Asked about what appears to be a rash of violence directed against children, compared to previous generations, she said, “Crimes against children were taboo in the Black community because we had strong family values and we had the church and the church was the focal point in our lives, and there’s been an erosion there” Bully-Cummings said.
“And I’m not going to sit here and say that’s it’s because of more single-parent households because you’ve got single parents that are doing a better job than some homes that have two parents.
“But it’s all about your morals. You used to not see Blacks take their own lives or kill family members. But over the years you’re seeing what didn’t used to impact us as a people being absorbed into our culture too.”
Steven Malik Shelton is a journalist and human rights advocate. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org