Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Officer Wedad Elhage - Detroit PD




Sergeant Wedad Elhage

Minutes of the Regular Board of Police Commissioners Meeting
Thursday, August 18, 2005
The regular meeting of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners was held on Thursday, August 18, 2005 at 3:00 p.m., at Our Police Headquarters, 1300 Beaubien, Detroit, Michigan 48226.

Minutes of the Regular BPC Meeting Thursday, August 18, 2005 Page 7.
On Wednesday, July 13, 2005, the Internal Affairs Section was notified of an allegation of misconduct on the part of Sergeant Wedad Elhage, Badge S-505, assigned to the Eighth Precinct. More specifically, the complaint alleged that Sergeant Elhage did, while off-duty, create a disturbance at the MGM Grand Casino, threatening the well being of persons and property.

As a result, the Internal Affairs Section initiated an investigation, which revealed the following:

On July 13, 2005, at approximately 3:30 p.m. Sergeant Elhage was seated in the MGM Casino (hereinafter the Casino) at a slot machine with dollar bills scattered about the floor in and around where she was seated. This caused other patrons of the Casino to gather around her, thereby causing a security concern. Casino Security approached Sergeant Elhage and requested that she pick up her money from the area surrounding her. Sergeant Elhage refused to comply with the request. Casino Security then escorted Sergeant Elhage from the premises. Upon exiting the Casino, Sergeant Elhage threatened to kill the security personnel. As a result, Casino Security contacted the Detroit Police Department.

Initially, two (2) Detroit Police Sergeants responded to the scene of the incident, Sergeant Price and Sergeant Jenkins. Sergeant Price and Sergeant Jenkins attempted to talk to Sergeant Elhage who, in return, shouted racial obscenities at them; "I will kick both your black asses."

Sergeant Price and Sergeant Jenkins continued to talk to Sergeant Elhage in an attempt to calm her. In return, Sergeant Elhage charged Sergeant Price and attempted to kick him. Sergeant Jenkins then requested additional police personnel respond to the location.

Inspector Quinn then responded to the scene of the incident.

Inspector Quinn tried to calm Sergeant Elhage and was also met with racial obscenities; "I am going to fuck-up all you Negroes."

Inspector Quinn offered Sergeant Elhage an opportunity to sit in his Detroit Police Department vehicle to allow her to calm down. Officer Elhage refused and became combative with two (2) uniform officers, Officer Erikson and Officer Patel. At one point, Sergeant Elhage stated that she was going to kill all of the officers at the scene and that she was going to "fuck up Patel's Mexican ass and all the Negroes as well." Sergeant Elhage also stated that she was going to notify the Arab community and have them all killed including Inspector Quinn's children, who she referred to by name.

Minutes of the Regular BPC Meeting Thursday, August 18, 2005 Page 8

By this point, approximately nine (9) uniform officers responded to the scene of the incident, including one (1) Inspector and one (1) Commander, and a crowd of casino-goers gathered to observe.

Sergeant Elhage eventually complied with the order to sit in a Department vehicle.

Sergeant Elhage then began to bang her head against the right rear window and kick the window in an attempt to break the window out. While doing so, Sergeant Elhage stated that they could then arrest her for a felony. Sergeant Elhage was then let out of the vehicle. Upon doing so, in an aggressive manner, Sergeant Elhage attempted to physically assault Sergeant Price and had to be physically restrained.

Sergeant Elhage was then placed in custody and transported to the Third Precinct for processing where Sergeant Elhage continued to be combative and shout racial epithets, and threatened more officers with physical harm. Sergeant Elhage was eventually conveyed to Detroit Receiving Hospital for evaluation.

Also, on July 13, 2005, Sergeant Elhage was charged with Disorderly Conduct in violation of the Detroit City Code, Section 38-5-1, a misdemeanor punishable by ninety (90) days in jail and/or a fine of five hundred dollars ($500.00).

On July 29, 2005, Officer Elhage was arraigned on the charge of Disorderly Conduct at the State of Michigan Thirty-Sixth District Court. Sergeant Elhage pled not guilty to the charge and the one hundred dollar ($100.00) bond that was previously posted was continued. The case is scheduled for pre-trial on August 10, 2005.

Based on the above circumstances, it is recommended that Sergeant Elhage be charged with, but not limited to the following violation of the Detroit Police Department Rules and Regulations:


Due to the seriousness of the conduct, I am requesting your concurrence with the suspension of Sergeant Wedad Elhage without pay, effective August 18, 2005.

Exec. Dir. Goss asked if there is anyone here on Sergeant Elhage’s behalf.

Atty. Fred Walker stated he is from DPLSA on behalf of Sergeant Elhage.I prepared some packages of paperwork that I would like to present. It’s my view of this matter that there is a history and precedence of the Detroit Police Department. Including references the general orders that alcoholism and alcohol abuse should be treated as a “treatable illness”. The first issue is whether her behavior can be caused from the alcohol abuse, which is my position that manifested the behavior in the first place. I...

Minutes of the Regular BPC Meeting Thursday, August 18, 2005 Page 9

Atty. Fred Walker...submit to you that the answer to that is emphatically no. Because the behavior on this occasion is some much at odds with her normal conducts as a human being and as a Sergeant of the Detroit Police Department.

That in of itself of course is insufficient, and I understand that the charge is not of alcohol abuse or being intoxicated. It’s the conduct that’s charged. That’s why I think it is important that the commission view the underlying symptoms as opposed to the result of the alcohol abuse.

The second issue is whether Sgt. Elhage has acknowledged her alcohol abuse, and I submit to you that the answer to that is emphatically yes. That can only be proven. She has taken concrete steps to address her behavior. I notice that when Mr. Goss read it he didn’t read everything and he kept it to a minimal. I appreciate that.

But, I understand the behavior was completely over the top and she acknowledges that as well. So, this has been building for quite some time with her. I submit to you that it is job related and everybody has stress especially police officers, but in her case this how it manifested itself, in alcohol abuse. She has never been intoxicated on the job, never drank before work and never during work. She’s a binge drinker and that’s when it comes up with this bazaar behavior that manifested itself here.

I have some paperwork in there, which shows the steps taken to address her situation. I would like to go over them briefly. She has been attending anger management through personal affairs she completed immediately. These are voluntary steps taken by Sgt. Elhage. She completed a one-week inpatient program for alcohol abuse. By the way she has never previously mentioned that she had a problem. She is continuing with outpatient therapy. There is a daily AA attendance. None of the things she had done before. She is under the care of a medical doctor.

She has made apologies to those whom she has been able to including the Inspector through an intermediary. She has worked with both of his children and knows them and apologizes for what she said.

In court we did appear at a pretrial and she pled no contest to the charges. That matter was taken under advisement for one year, by the judge. I would submit to you that her behavior since that time has be a genuine sincere admission of wrongdoing and an attempt to make things right.

Now you are here to determine whether you are going to suspend her without pay pending the trail board. The trial board is scheduled for September 21st. Even though we cannot take issue with the behavior we feel that we can show a very strong case as to her character as a normal proposition. We have a number of witnesses that we will be calling. I feel strongly that we will have a strong presentation.

This will be a real financial hardship for her. She has been able to line up another job in the event that you do suspend her. With her mortgage and home equity loan that will eat up the entire wages that she earns.

Also, she would lose her insurance, which pays for the outpatient therapy. I submit to you that her alcohol abuse is in fact job related.

I want to point out a few specific things that have occurred during her career. She came to the Department in 1987. In 1992 it was the first time she drank alcohol. She was often teased and harassed at work by her co-workers. A person who was very kind to her was murdered in 1992. In 1995 there were an accident between two scout cars that were involved in a chase and the two officers were killed. One of those officers was her scout car partner and the other officer was her jogging partner. There was the Oklahoma bombing and the thought was that it was Arabic related. She is Arabic, so there was a lot of teasing from that.

Minutes of the Regular BPC Meeting Thursday, August 18, 2005 Page 10

Atty. Fred Walker...She has worked in a variety of departments including homicide where she would take a drink to fall asleep. I think if you look at that and consider her career as an 18 year veteran and at the trail board we will bring in a number of supervisors who we believe will testify favorable to her character and conduct as an officer.

She is an accomplished person that’s motivated and dedicated. Importantly, I think she is a kind-hearted person. I am asking that you give her a reprieve for the time being and support her. I think she is going to come out of this well and return to the department.

Chairperson Ramirez stated one of the forms that you gave does not have a letterhead it’s just written.

Atty. Fred Walker stated right those are the AA meetings.

Chairperson Ramirez stated I don’t see one from them that she has been attending; it’s just a log.

Atty. Fred Walker stated correct, just a phone number.

Atty. Nanowski stated the she just has two points to make before she starts in on her arguments.

One, in respect to the documents that Mr. Walker has provided you with concerning Sgt. Elhage, I am going to enter an objection on the record. One is to relevancy; two, I had no advanced notice that these documents were going to be entered.

I will say on August 10th I faxed to the DPLSA the documentation that I had concerning this case including a copy of the suspension petition that I filed but I did not receive the same consideration.

Second with respect to alcoholism and I wasn’t going to bring this issue up, but I think I have every right to bring this issue up because Mr. Walker has opened the door. This not the first time that we have dealt with an alcohol issue with respect to Sgt. Elhage. It is not the second time, but it’s the third time.

In two prior incidents they are very similar to what have occurred in Detroit on July 13th, only using other police jurisdictions. We have given her every consideration. Having said that we are here today to talk about her duty status. The standard is given the conduct that engaged in, should this Sergeant continue to work as a police officer?

In order to answer that question you need to look at the conduct that was involved. On July 13th Sgt Elhage was at a MGM Casino sitting at a slot machine. Nothing is wrong with that. She got money scattered around the floor and a crowd gathers. Security becomes concerned because they think it is going to cause a problem so they go over a ask her to pick up the money. She refuses and becomes combative and starts yelling racial epithets and they escort her from the casino.

In the parking lot she threatens to kill the two security officers who escorted her out of the building. They contact the Detroit Police Department and two Sergeants arrive on the scene not with the intent to arrest Sgt. Elhage, but to calm her down.

They tried to calm her down and what did she do? She yelled racial epithets and becomes combated and tries to assault one of the Sergeants. At that point an Inspector is called. He tries to calm her down and she assaults him. He wants her to get into his police car where it is nice and cool inside. She threatens him and his two children by...

Minutes of the Regular BPC Meeting Thursday, August 18, 2005 Page 11

Atty. Nanowski...stating that she will kill them.

At that point a commander arrives on the scene. Sgt. Elhage finally goes into a police car and tries to kick the windows out of the car and says “now can arrest me for a felony”.

They still do not arrest her but at this point you have nine DPD uniform officers there and five casino personnel. No one wants to arrest her; everybody just wants her to calm down. But she doesn’t and they end up arresting her for disorderly conduct.I guess the issue before you, does that conduct warrant a reduced status without pay? The department answer is yes.

I’ll make four points, one it’s a violation of the criminal code and a violation of the rules and regulations of this department.

Secondly, you got an issue of trust that is the basis of this department and basis of law enforcement. She is a supervisor we are not talking about a patrol officer.

Thirdly, one of the most important elements that I think you have to look at is the impact it has on the citizens of this community. They think when we send officers out that we are sending out people that we trust.

Fourth, the resources that this department poured into Sgt. Elhage on July 13th for three hours trying to calm her down before they finally arrested her. Based on the four points I would respectful request that you concur with the Chief recommendations and suspend Sgt. Elhage without pay.

Comm. Norris asked how are we doing on my project?

Atty. Nanowski stated on you project we have come up with time lines.

Comm. Norris stated let me tell you why, Mr. Walker I don’t think we had the pleasure of having you here before but we have been having an ongoing discussion.

I have no question in my mind and my fellow commissioners will exercise their own judgments that this conduct warrants a suspension without pay.

One of the things that I am very proud of and I think the Commission can only take half of the credit because I think the other half goes to the Chief and her predecessor is that we raised the bar.

There was a time when this kind of conduct, because there was no felony change would have gone without misconduct. If you take the racial slurs out of it, this conduct the violence alone will warrant a suspension without pay. I think when you add the slurs, it makes it all the more clear that this officer cannot currently carry out her duties effectively.

Having said that regardless of the history I do believe in redemption of a sort. It is clear that this officer is making efforts to turn things around. I am really pleased to hear that there is a trial board in September. That sounds we will get to some resolution on the disciplinary tract. I will support the suspension without pay knowing that before too long the disciplinary procedure will go through.

But I have an ongoing concern about officers that we suspend without pay. The conduct warrants it but then they hang out there for a very long time without the department taking disciplinary action. I think that is really unfair to the officers. I think the officer ought to have a right to have these thing reconsidered after some time has passed.

Minutes of the Regular BPC Meeting Thursday, August 18, 2005 Page 12

Atty. Nanowski stated to Comm. Norris that the Chief does take that very seriously in terms of a suspension of a duty status without pay. And as a result of that now you see these cases are set for trial board.

Chairperson Ramirez asked I did not see does she have prior suspensions?

Atty. Nanowski stated that since the DPOA opened the door I thought I would bring that up but yes.

Exec. Dir. Goss stated that he would like to recognize Lt. Shaper and Harrison Tolliver from the Office of the Chief Investigators.

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