A Resident’s Analysis of the November 15, 2013 Raid on Detroit’s Colony Arms Building

//Darren Reese-Brown & Mark Jay

Darren outside the building facing Colony Arms

Darren outside the building facing Colony Arms

On November 15, 2013, Colony Arms, a public housing apartment complex on Detroit’s east side, was raided. Darren Reese-Brown was a resident that day when one-hundred-fifty officers swarmed the location on the corner of East Jefferson and McClellan as part of a collaborative effort between the Detroit Police Department (DPD); the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Administration; Michigan State Police; Border Patrol; Michigan’s Department of Corrections; and a unit of SWAT officers.[1] Detroit’s Police Chief James Craig explained that Colony Arms was plagued by violence “ranging from assault, shooting incidents, narcotic activity, domestic violence — you name it, it happened.”[2] There were six hundred calls registered to DPD up to that point in 2013 from Colony Arms, and Craig publicly justified the raid as a response to the staggering amount of high-level crime reported. Thirty-three arrests were made. One resident described to us the scene that afternoon:

“I saw the Department of Correction school bus out there ... cop cars with the sirens blocking off [East] Jefferson for about three, four blocks ... some kind of tank blocking the back alley, at least two helicopters doing I don’t know what up there ... they set up a HQ in the lobby to run everyone name ... and the news was all up in there, making a little show of it .... The officers had real, real long rifles. It was like the army or something on Jefferson. Like a invasion .... Yes, I was scared.”

This police action was not an anomoly; it was rather one of a series of paramilitary raids that James Craig has engaged in since he became DPD Commissioner on July 1, 2013. Despite Craig's claim that he plans to “institutionalize community policing in Detroit,”[3] DPD has consistently and boastfully employed mass raids in the poorest communities in Detroit, on both the East and West side, as a primary response to the “culture of violence.”[4]

The goal of this article is to give some much-needed context for the raid on Colony Arms, and our approach to doing this is four-pronged. First, through a series of interviews, we explore the dynamic between Colony Arms residents and the DPD in the year leading up to the raid. Second, we analyze the thirty-three arrests made during the raid, comparing the charges leveled against those arrested with the intensity of high-level crime the raid ostensibly was meant to combat. Third, we examine Detroit media’s overwhelmingly positive response to the raid and compare their reports with the experiences of the residents we interviewed. Finally, through prolonged interviews with many Colony Arms residents, we aim to broaden the narrow legal discourse surrounding the raid and its justification, and explore the human consequences of having lived through this raid.

The southern view of Colony Arms from McClellan St.

The southern view of Colony Arms from McClellan St.


The Dynamic Between Colony Arms Residents and the DPD

At the time of the raid, Cassandra Grimes, Darren's fiancée, was an unemployed mother of three. A product of Detroit Public Schools, she dropped out in the 10th grade when she became pregnant with her first child, her daughter Carissa. When the father of her second child, her son Camari, began abusing her and Camari, she saved up the money she had made as a self-employed hairdresser and moved away from him. She chose to live in the Colony Arms in 2011 because a friend had told her that it was a “nice ... reasonable place” and because just outside the apartment building there was a stop along the Harper Woods school bus route, so Carissa would have a safe way to get to school. Throughout 2013, Cassandra made dozens of calls to the DPD about “fights ... shootouts ... bad stuff for the kids to be around ... but [the police] never really did anything about it.” Cassandra tried to move to a safer residence but found that applications to other public housing complexes around the city were very competitive, and she was denied several times. During the November raid on Colony Arms, Cassandra was eight months pregnant with her fourth child, Junior. In front of her children, Cassandra was arrested that day on a year-old charge for possession of a nickel-bag of marijuana in Warren County, outside of Detroit. Eight months pregnant, she spent nearly ten hours in county jail, contracting on a slab of concrete in the jail’s bullpen,[5] until she was given medical care and released at about 9:00 p.m.

Over the course of several months following the raid, we conducted dozens of interviews with Colony Arms residents about criminal activity in the building in the year leading up to the raid, and DPD’s response to this crime.[6] Two main themes emerged from our interviews. The first is that the police, when they responded to calls, took a long time. Here is a sample of answers given by four residents when we asked how long it typically took police to arrive after they made a call to DPD: “Hours.” “Hour, hour and then some.” “At least a couple of hours.” “Never.”

During the spring of 2013, several members of a local gang known by residents to be responsible for many crimes — including robbery and homicide — were in the hallway on the fourth floor of Colony Arms. They were walking around with guns out, blasting music, getting ready for “war” with a rival gang. Multiple residents called the police, but by the time the police showed up hours later, the gang members were gone, and the police left without interviewing any residents or handing out an incident report. Cassandra told us, “I know I made at least a couple of those calls. Nothing happen .... They was out there with guns, screaming ... on that lean .... [The police] come going on a couple hours ... and if the people ain’t right there, then they just left right out.”

Marco Freeman, an unemployed 18-year-old who has lived in Colony Arms with his older sister since the winter of 2012 had this to say about the gang’s ongoing presence:

“A small circle of people were responsible for the majority of the calls: The Mack Ave. Niggas. They was the ones people was calling about for the purse snatching, kicking down doors, doing what gangs do, muscling up on people. That one day they was wylin’ ... none of them got caught 'cause the police tardy, and when they arrive they ain’t even really know who they were looking for. Unless they had your name already in the system, [the police] didn’t know nobody from nobody else.”

One resident, a single mother who’s lived in the Colony Arms building since 2010 — she asked to be referred to here as Sierra — estimated that she was responsible for at least eighty of the six hundred calls that year. She said, “on average it probably take [the police] going on an hour to show up.” She called DPD for any number of things, including the above incident of gunmen in the hallway, fights in the lobby, and shootouts outside the building. “It was mostly the same people I was calling about. They never caught them. Never. Not one. And as soon as [the police] left, the criminals came right back out ... and so I kept on calling .... They ain’t never catch no one, which to me is messed up 'cause I was calling about some people with warrants on them.” Even when a detective met with Sierra, took down her descriptions of specific gang members, and gave her his personal cell phone number with instructions to call immediately if she saw any person of interest, the results were still the same. “I’m saying I had a direct line to the detective, and they still came maybe an hour later ... or I’ll catch their voicemail ... and ain’t never catch nobody, 'cause really who’s gonna get caught an hour later …. The detectives shouldn’t keep giving they number if they ain’t never gonna come.”

Cassandra also made a lot of calls regarding the consistent gang presence in the building: “I probably made ten, twenty calls about them same people .... No they never really came or caught anyone when they did.”

The walk-up to the Colony Arms main entrance on East Jefferson St. 

The walk-up to the Colony Arms main entrance on East Jefferson St. 

Cassandra told us of another situation during the spring of 2013 when she was physically abused by an intoxicated man, nicknamed Cash, after he’d attempted to steal food from her and had threatened her children. She and Darren immediately reported the incident to the building manager, and “the manager was all smiley ... reached into his desk and pulled out a wanted poster.” It turns out Cash was already wanted on several charges, including armed robbery. They called the police together, were put on hold for several minutes, then reported that a wanted felon had choked and threatened a female resident, and that there were two eye-witnesses. The police said they were on the way; however, they never showed up. Cash kept coming around, and Cassandra told us, “It seem like they don’t really be caring about my safety, my kids .... I do not like that ... things had to be settled ... outside the law.” In Darren’s words, “I’d rather have been able to call the police and have them protect my family, but it just wasn’t like that. I knew I had to take their safety into my own hands.” A fistfight later ensued between Darren and Cash on the fourth floor of Colony Arms.

Three Colony Arms residents echoed that one’s safety could not be trusted to the police. KP, a 21-year-old whose baby daughter lives in Colony Arms said, “I would have to do whatever it takes to survive if someone try something ... because I know [the police] are gonna take they time getting there .... They scared of [Colony Arms] they own self.” Dre, a father of four, said of the police: “I think they did have some kind of intimidation of the building because they never really came when they said they would ... and when they did come they was always in big numbers ... but too late.” Marco said, “This right here the jungle .... If you waitin’ on police, you gon’ keep on waiting.”

Marco reflecting on a winter afternoon. 

Marco reflecting on a winter afternoon. 

Once the police arrived, they quickly left the premises if the alleged criminal was not present and immediately apprehensible. The residents' knowledge of who the criminals were and, often, where they were, rarely made it to the police because the police were hasty in their interviews of residents, if these interviews occurred at all. When asked how quickly the police usually spend in Colony Arms when responding to calls, Dre said, “They leave out quicker than bedbugs if you turn the light on.” Sierra told us the cops just come and go, without talking to residents, so, “all [criminals] really gotta do is hide in someone else’s room when the cops come and they all good 'cause [the police] don’t know what’s going on really ... and usually they ain’t gonna try and find out. If they ask around, you could probably actually catch someone.”

Commissioner Craig had explained, “There's a lot of young people in the City of Detroit that have adopted this no snitch policy .... There's this fear that if I talk, I could be hurt." Contrary to this no-snitching stereotype, interviews at Colony Arms showed that residents were and are willing to talk to police. Dre said about his willingness to incriminate the gang members responsible for much of the crime: “That no-snitching shit don’t play when it’s one of your people in a bad situation ... people was ready to talk on them — the cops wasn’t tryin’ to hear it.” Sierra, who had called the police perhaps more than any other Colony Arms resident, said, “When your kids is on the line ... of course I’ma call.”

When asked if he could identify the gang members who had been flaunting guns in the hallway last spring, D-Swag, a longtime resident of the Colony Arms’ fourth flood said, “Yeah, we all know .... How could you not know ... [police] don’t know — excuse me — they don’t know shit.” In Darren's words: “Yes, people are willing to talk. If they weren’t how else could you explain those six-hundred calls?” Marco tried to summarize for us the Colony Arms no-snitching policy:

“If something happens with my family or my friends, I would go to extreme measures to alleviate the situation, such as calling the police. Also, if someone’s life is in danger, it would be bogue to look the other way and not call the police. The code of not snitching don’t really apply. That’s really more of a hood, gang thing. I’m my own man. There’s kids and old ladies and pregnant women in the building. If they in danger, yes, I’ma call the police regardless who’s doing it. Yes, there was some intimidation going on, and some people aren’t gonna stick their nose in other people’s business ... but if you ask me, the real reason the police ain’t catch nobody is they don’t follow up on your calls in time and they don’t want to talk to people. If you ask most [residents] who’s doing the stuff, they know, 'cause everyone be intermingling, and everyone know everybody business.”

Darren and Marco on the corner of East Jefferson and McClellan St., opposite Colony Arms.

Darren and Marco on the corner of East Jefferson and McClellan St., opposite Colony Arms.

On the night of his 20th birthday in December 2012, Darren and Cassandra were robbed at gunpoint in the alley behind the Colony Arms building. Darren knew the gunman — he was a resident of the building, a member of the same gang mentioned above. The gunman pointed his shotgun at Cassandra’s pregnant stomach — at Darren’s soon-to-be-born son — and threatened to shoot if they didn’t give him their money. Cassandra was screaming hysterically, and the gunman and Darren were both warning her to be quiet.[7] Eventually, he took their money (twenty dollars) and crept away down the alley. Darren and Cassandra then entered the back door of Colony Arms and coincidentally saw two of Detroit’s finest loitering on the back stairs. Cassandra, still hysterical, told them what had just happened. The policemen told her to calm down and step back. One officer took Cassandra’s name, but, as Cassandra told us, “He ain’t even write down what I told him he look like ... or that I knew he was going to the next building 'cause he had people there.” The cops said that they would handle it, then Cassandra watched as the two cops exited the building, got in their car, and drove away. Carissa, their six-year-old daughter, watched the robbery through the window in their living room window. She was confused and scared when her parents returned, and together they waited more than two hours for the police to contact them. At nearly midnight, they received a knock on the door from a different policeman, who came to follow up on Cassandra’s call. By this point, predictably, the gunman was gone, and the officer told them that he was sorry, that there was nothing to be done. The crime had taken place in view of several of their neighbors' windows; however, none of these residents were interviewed about the robbery by the late-arrived policeman. As is typical, the policeman did not give Cassandra any kind of incident report, making it difficult to track police activity related to this crime.[8]


Who was arrested in the raid?

Do-Wrong is the nickname of an unemployed 25-year-old male notorious around Colony Arms for his discretion and sense of humor. He is hesitant to give his government name to anyone; several close friends admitted that for years they have known him simply as “Do-Wrong.” Though he is not a resident of Colony Arms, Do-Wrong is a familiar presence around the building; Colony Arms is one of the residences where he makes some money as an entrepreneur. He sells cigarettes. “Only Newports ... I can't make no money on anything but Newports.” The price ranges from fifty cents to a dollar per cigarette, depending on the the number of cigarettes being bought and the buyer's relationship with him. Do-Wrong uses the money he earns from this hustle and other odd jobs (“construction, painting ... anything”) he works in order to support his daughter. On the day of the November raid, Do-Wrong was hanging out with some friends in their apartment when cops came through the front door. They ran everyone's name and eventually arrested him on a court holding for a months-old moving violation. He spent two days in county jail and was released without having to pay the outstanding fine.

The official justification given for the raid was that there were more than six hundred calls from the Colony Arms Building to the police in 2013 alone. However, it is clear from conversations with residents that the poor response by the police to these calls gave rise to more calls, as crime continued unchecked, so the justification for the raid was also evidence of the poor policing which, in part, gave birth to it. As KP told us, “If a criminal knows he gonna be able to get away with something ... if the police gonna take an hour ... then he’s gonna do it. Why wouldn’t you do it if you know you’re not getting caught?”

Commissioner Craig claimed that the raid was a response to the pervasive crime in Colony Arms and that the operation was successful: “There are people with outstanding warrants. Some felony suspects. A parolee for carjacking who was armed with a gun when we made contact with him this morning. This has ... been a great operation.”[9] However, despite this vague claim, DPD has yet to publicly release the names or statistics of the arrests made during the raid. Our conversations with residents indicate two main problems with the raid’s relation with this crime: (1) those arrested in the raid, for the most part, had nothing to do with the calls made to police, and (2) almost everyone arrested was released within three days.

The vast majority of those arrested in the raid were charged with low-level misdemeanor crimes or were brought in on old court writs. Marco told us, “Any person with any little amount of weed on them, just they little personal weed, they was arrested [during the raid] and they made them all seem like real big criminals. That ain’t got shit to do with what’s going on here with people that really do be hurting other people.” Marco told us a story that was echoed by many residents we interviewed. Gio, one of Colony Arms' notorious drug dealers, was arrested in the raid. “They got Gio, yeah — on some tickets, dog. On some parking tickets, dog," Marco explained. None of Gio’s drugs or guns were found, and, though Gio was a provocateur of many of the 600 calls to police, he remained at large for all of 2013. “That nigga was back on Monday, doing what Gio do.”

Dre told us about the arrests made during the raid: “Most of the real criminals got away. All they really got was some petty … parking tickets, traffic violations, writs, different things like that .... Only real way to get them real [criminals] is to catch them slipping ... the only way to do that is to respond to calls .... [The police] just don’t be on they job.”

Parking lot behind Colony Arms.

Parking lot behind Colony Arms.

We also learned that Cassandra was not the only pregnant woman arrested during the raid. A pregnant resident named Brianna had also been arrested on a misdemeanor charge: possession of marijuana, without the intention to distribute. Unlike Cassandra, Brianna was forced the spend the night in the bullpen; she was released the next morning without having to pay a fine.

By the Monday following the raid, 30 of the 33 people caught up in the sweep returned to the building.[10] Most of those arrested were released without facing any further legal repercussions, were not even given a fine to pay or a record of their arrest. Brianna and Cassandra told us, “They just let us go — no fine, no nothing. Like it never happened.” KP said, “Tell me what was the point ... if they just gonna let everyone go then why put everyone through this shit?”

A week after the raid, it was back to business as usual. D-Swag said, “No, I did not feel safer after the raid because ain’t shit change, really ... the raid ain’t do shit.... [Those arrested] is back.” Dre told us, “Soon, you know, the jackboyz[11] was put back on they masks and the traphouses[12] were back open for business ... shoot outs too ... within the next couple of days them 33 people is back getting they guns from wherever they hid 'em at and back doing what they was doing.”

Cassandra had this to say about the raid’s aftermath: “To the police commissioner, I say ... good job on finally coming ... but it’s like you need to really work hard ... you need to get in touch with the community and find out what’s really going on ... instead of just coming on a hunch ... the building need to be shut down so families with kids can live in a better place and not have to go through shoot outs and all that stuff 'cause the people they locked up [in the raid] is out.”

Two days after the raid, Cassandra received a knock on her door. It was the police. However, this time, they did not come to arrest her. The officer simply handed her a $500 gift card to Target, and would not give any explanation for the gift card. We later learned that only one other resident was given a gift card from DPD that day. She was unwilling to have her name used in this report. However, she was also a mother who’d been arrested in Friday’s raid, charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana, and released the next day. Cassandra said, “I felt like it was a bribe, you know, not to say what had happened.”


Media Coverage of the Raid

Marco Freeman is a lanky 18-year-old who grew up in the foster care system. His foster mother was not loving. She stole money that Marco's family had sent for him in the mail and generally did very little to provide for him. According to Marco, she “was just trying to make money off me.”[13] In 2012, he left his foster mother's care and moved into Colony Arms with his sister. Once a resident of Colony Arms, Marco had several “negative” experiences with DPD. During the summer of 2013, a fight with fellow resident Tasha escalated, and Tasha began hacking Marco and his sister’s door with a large knife, threatening to kill Marco. When she continued the threats, Marco, fearing for himself and his one-year-old nephew, called 911. He said, “You know how the cops like to play you, so I was on they ass — each time I called they was on some bullshit. Talking about call back or just like straight disconnecting .... So I finally got through on the sixth call talking to some lady. Don’t get me wrong, I was scared, but I did some extra stuff too. I was fake crying and screaming and junk, 'cause you know they play a nigga if they don’t really think you in real trouble.” Nearly two hours later the police arrived, and by this time Tasha’s knife was nowhere to be seen. When asked about the media coverage of the raid, Marco said, “And the media, Fox 2, News Channel 4, they out there trying to make a celebration of it. They tell you that thirty-three people got locked up, but they don't tell you that all of them was back doing what they do a couple little days later .... What's the point?”

Detroit's media coverage of the raid was uniformly laudatory. The Detroit Free Press,[14] ABC,[15] CBS,[16] M-Live,[17] Deadline Detroit,[18] Curbed Detroit,[19] and the Michigan Chronicle[20] all gave similar accounts. One common thread of the coverage was the fetishization of the violence in Colony Arms, without offering any larger context for the violence.[21] Curbed Detroit began their article, “Meet the Colony Arms Apartments, the east side hellhole you've probably never heard of.” Detroit Free Press started their report with a video from Assistant Police Chief Eric Jones. Jones says Colony Arms is "the most violent location in the city. Shootings, robberies, aggravated assault, rapes, burglaries, and we initiated this operation so that we could let the residents ... live in peace.”

None of these reports noted any discrepancy between the violence of the reported crimes used to justify the raid and the relatively petty nature of the charges given to those arrested in the raid. Sierra explained, “[The media] got it messed up. The building does have some real serious problems ... but what people need to understand is the people they locked up is not the people we was calling about.”

For the most part, the media outlets also failed to offer any follow-up coverage, to see if those arrested were still locked up. The only coverage given to the raid in the week that followed was a brief segment by Local 4 Click on Detroit.[22] This segment characterized the raid as “busloads of bad guys taken out of these apartments” and warned that the state prosecutor did not have enough funds to prosecute all the “bad guys.”

The Colony Arms lobby where DPD set up a HQ during the raid. 

The Colony Arms lobby where DPD set up a HQ during the raid. 

Another commonality between the reports was that Colony Arms residents were always depicted to be cheering and clapping as the raid occurred. The Detroit Free Press began their account of the raid: “Residents cheered through open windows and from nearby street corners as Detroit Police filed out of an apartment complex on Jefferson at McClellan known for shoot-outs and drug deals.” Twenty-one seconds into the article’s corresponding video, the camera zooms in on two residents that the article present as “cheering through open windows.” However, one of the residents pictured is Marco, whom we have quoted throughout this article as being highly critical of the raid. Detroit’s ABC Nightly News began their segment on the night of the raid by saying that Police Chief Craig was “making good” on his promise to crack down on crime, and that “cops got a round of applause as they started arresting the accused criminals.” ABC’s footage also timed another shot of Marco leaning out of his apartment’s window with a quote from Police Chief Craig saying that he heard “people start to clap with excitement.” Marco said of the videos,[23] “That’s some bullshit. But that’s what they do: they edit.”

46 seconds into the video, Marco can be seen leaning out of the building on the right of the screen.

D-Swag told us that the depiction of residents as cheering on the raid was problematic, in the most literal sense. “Marco actually ended up getting jumped, yup .... Them people they arrested was right back, and you know, they ain’t like that people was said to be cheering and everything.” Dre echoed D-Swag’s sentiment about the raid: “It was sloppy. Because they made a show out of taking them. The news love that. That’s action for them. They feed off that. That’s what they wanted. That to be a big ass show. But [the police] should have been discreet. The people who got arrested were back on Monday, that’s what I’m saying, so it just led to more problems with the people they thought was cheering on they arrest.”

Most of the media outlets also included in their report a commentary on how one resident, while being arrested, told Commissioner Craig that he was doing a good job. The Detroit Free Press said, “One man, while being put in handcuffs, told the new chief he was doing a good job.” Curbed Detroit said of the incident, “Yes, even the criminals were grateful to escape the Colony Arms.” What the media did not seem to grasp was that the person arrested was the previously mentioned Gio. A prominent drug dealer, Gio, when he found out he was being arrested because of unpaid parking tickets, sarcastically told the Chief that he was doing a good job. His sarcasm proved justified when Gio was released two days later, and, according to residents, was immediately back to his old illegal activities.

Another telling example of the discrepancy between the reality in Colony Arms and the media coverage of the raid was evidenced in a CBS report.[24] Do-Wrong was arrested during the raid, and CBS included a picture of his arrest along with a caption reading: “A handcuffed suspect’s t-shirt reads ‘Original Gangster.’” Directly underneath this caption was this quote from James Craig: “Ranging from assault, shooting incidents, narcotic activity, domestic violence ... within the last couple of years, Detroit police officers have been fired upon from this very location.”

CBS used this picture of "Do-Wrong" to depict Colony Arms' culture of crime. 

CBS used this picture of "Do-Wrong" to depict Colony Arms' culture of crime. 

This media portrait obscures or, rather, manipulates, the facts surrounding Do-Wrong's arrest. “He don’t even live here,” Cassandra said, in disbelief of the CBS photo of the single father. During the raid, he and several friends were hanging out in a fourth-floor apartment. Several officers came in and searched the room, and proceeded to find a dime-bag of communal marijuana and flush it down the toilet. As mentioned above, he was arrested when the police ran his name and he was linked with a non-criminal court holding. Like almost everyone else arrested, Do-Wrong was released by the end of the weekend.


The Human Costs of the Raid on Colony Arms

Camari Grimes is the three-year-old son of Darren and Cassandra. On the day of the raid, he was watching television when several officers came into their apartment. These officers were armed, and one of them was wearing a helmet and shield. The officers arrested his pregnant mother, Cassandra, then told him to stay with Darren in the kitchen as they occupied their apartment for nearly half an hour longer, conducting a thorough, warrantless, search of the apartment. After they left, the officers remained stationed in the hallway for the rest of the afternoon. When Darren had to go take the bus to pick up Cassandra from Hutzel Hospital, where she was finally discharged, Camari and his brother and sister were left for hours in their neighbor's apartment. It wasn't until after 11 o'clock that Camari and his two siblings were reunited with their mother and father.

The media largely ignored the traumatic effects of living through a raid of this magnitude. It is insufficient to characterize the residents of Colony Arms as either guilty or innocent — they are people, and their accounts of living through the raid are chilling. Dre described his feelings about the raid: “For them to come to my residence like that, like I’m the enemy .... I was nervous, I was shaking .... They didn’t even have anything on me ... but my whole body was shaking. I couldn’t even talk right." Sierra said, “It’s messed up ... I don’t think kids should have to see all that.” KP said, “That’s something I didn’t ever want my little daughter to have to experience. Hell naw.” Marco told us, “It was kinda sad too because you had children getting put in officers' cars, left without parents, seeing they mommas get in handcuffs ... this shit was wild, that shit was sloppy ... that shit is scarring.” Even if paramilitary raids can be used to effectively deter crime, the trauma of residents and their children who have lived through raids should factor into discussions about whether or not the raid is a legitimate police tactic.

During the raid four SWAT officers entered Darren’s apartment with their guns out of their harnesses. That afternoon, Darren, who’d spent three years as a ward of the state of Michigan on an automobile theft charge, explained that he felt like he was being imprisoned. The officers occupied Colony Arms for upwards of three hours. The streets were blocked and officers were stationed in the hallways, weapons in hand, treating every resident as if they were guilty, just on account of residing there. As Darren put it, “Gunmen by the elevator made sure that nobody — nobody — regardless of what they had going on, their work schedule or obligations ... if they’re getting charged or not ... nobody went in and out of any of the apartments.” There was no meaningful distinction between any of the residents; the residents who had made so many of the 911 calls leading to the raid were treated exactly the same as the people that the calls were about: they were all treated as criminals.

Darren, Cassandra, and their four children, left to right, Cameron, Camari, Carissa, and Junior. 

Darren, Cassandra, and their four children, left to right, Cameron, Camari, Carissa, and Junior. 

The racial makeup of Colony Arms residents is more than 90% African American, and all residents, as a condition of their living in this public housing complex, live at or below the poverty line. The average monthly rent for an apartment in Colony Arms ranges from $100 to $270. It is worth considering if a higher socio-economic class of residents would so cavalierly be subjected to a raid of this magnitude.

As Police Chief Craig said about the neighborhood surrounding the Colony Arms building, “This location didn't become bad yesterday .... It's been years. Years. Isn't that amazing? I mean what were we doing?" That’s a good question. What have they been doing? And is swarming low-income areas with militarized officers and TV crews, and locking up everyone with a gram of weed or an outstanding court holding a solution to the problem? Or is it a celebration of the problem?

Marco summed up the state of the Colony Arms Building: “Mice running through the hallways, bed bugs ... corrupt management .... People kicking down doors. It’s a bad environment for the kids .... That’s a lot of weight on my shoulders .... And the fact that the cops is making a show about putting a fix on it, that don’t make me feel good. Coming home, I can feel the negativity all around there.” If, as Dre suggested, the raid has offered “no kind of resolution about the problems going on,” then it’s important to ask why the media universally praised the raid, and, perhaps more importantly, why Commissioner Craig continues to use large-scale raids as a primary policing strategy throughout the most crime-ridden areas of Detroit,[25] even as this tactic seemingly contradicts his stated plan to “institutionalize community policing in Detroit.”[26] The answer to this question is beyond the scope of this article.[27] To supplement this work, it will be important for others to study this police tactic of the raid, place it in a larger historical and sociological context, and help the public understand who, if not the residents, is really benefiting from its exercise.[28][29] It will also be important to search for links between the ongoing raids and last year’s reports that DPD paid the Koch-funded Manhattan Institute more than $600,000 to help DPD implement broken-windows policing strategies,[30] which, when implemented elsewhere around the country, most famously in New York City, emphasize highly aggressive police action and elevated rates of arrest in areas of blight or visible disrepair.[31]

When the officers entered the Colony Arms building on November 15th, 2013, they did so with the mindset that it was a criminalized building with criminal residents; everyone, regardless of the legal status, was treated terribly and exposed to police aggression. Darren said, on the day of the raid, “I felt like I must have been in a different country.”

Darren by the bus stop on the corner of East Jefferson and McClellan St.

Darren by the bus stop on the corner of East Jefferson and McClellan St.

//Mark Jay is a co-founder of The Periphery.

//Darren Reese-Brown is a contributor to The Periphery. Check out the magazine's interview of Darren here.

Special thanks to Sam Ward and Kevin Chamow for their editorial expertise. 

[1] http://www.wxyz.com/news/region/detroit/police-sweep-under-way-near-cadillac-jefferson-in-detroit-heavy-police-presence-in-the-area
[2] http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2013/11/15/32-arrested-in-biggest-detroit-crime-sweep-in-20-years-neighbors-clap-and-cheer/
[3] http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2014/03/detroit_police_chief_james_cra_16.html 
[4] http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2014/02/detroit_police_release_results.html
[5] Darren: “The bullpen is where all of the females arrested that day were left until they were processed. New inmates, upon entering jail, stay there for at least 24 hours. There is one toilet for everyone. Sometimes there is tissue paper, sometimes there isn’t. There is no showering allowed. This is not where you want to be for any extended period of time, especially if you are pregnant.”
[6] Even though Darren is himself a resident of Colony Arms, residents were very hesitant to give quotes or have their name included in this report, in large part due to the media's manipulation of resident sentiment, something that we explore in section 4. When given permission, we attributed their quotes to agreed upon nicknames.
[7] Darren: “In the hood, if you are calling for help when caught in a robbery, it is liable to switch from a robbery to a homicide. Even though I was scared out of my mind - the last thing you ever want to do is make the gunman panic.”
[8] Another unrelated incident details the horrible response time of emergency services. In August 2013, a man crossing the street was hit by a car on East Jefferson. Several residents called 911, including Cassandra, but it was several hours before an ambulance or cop car arrived. “It was really sad,” Cassandra said. “He laid there bleeding in the middle of a busy street for some hours before they came.”
[9] http://www.freep.com/article/20131115/NEWS01/311150095/Detroit-crime-sweep
[10] This number is based on a consensus from our interviews with residents. As mentioned, DPD has yet to publicly release statistics about the arrests made in the raid.
[11] Slang for thieves.
[12] Slang for drug house.
[13] Foster parents receive monthly stipends from the government to help them support their foster children; however, in Detroit, there are few regulations in place to assure that this money reaches the foster children.
[14] http://www.freep.com/article/20131115/NEWS01/311150095/Detroit-crime-sweep
[15] http://www.wxyz.com/news/region/detroit/police-sweep-under-way-near-cadillac-jefferson-in-detroit-heavy-police-presence-in-the-area
[16] http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2013/11/15/32-arrested-in-biggest-detroit-crime-sweep-in-20-years-neighbors-clap-and-cheer/
[17] http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2013/11/detroit_police_chief_james_cra_12.html
[18] http://www.deadlinedetroit.com/articles/7243/massive_police_raid_on_east_side_apartment_the_ scene_of_600_cop_runs_in_2013#.Uys9ToWgV9k
[19] http://detroit.curbed.com/archives/2013/11/the-colony-arms-might-be-detroits-worst-apartment-building.php
[20] http://michronicleonline.com/2014/02/05/detroits-top-cop-james-craig-speaks-out/
[21] There is plenty of reporting about the flight of capital from Detroit, the city’s failing schools, the lack of employment opportunities, and the prison-industrial complex; however, accounts of the raid given by DPD and the Detroit media rarely placed it in this larger context, or acknowledged the poor response by DPD to the hundreds of calls that led up to, and were used to justify, the raid.
[22] http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/Massive-Detroit-police-raid-10-days-later/23155618
[23] http://www.freep.com/article/20131115/NEWS01/311150095/Detroit-crime-sweep
[24] http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2013/11/15/32-arrested-in-biggest-detroit-crime-sweep-in-20-years-neighbors-clap-and-cheer/
[25] http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2014/02/detroit_police_release_results.html
http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2013/12/operation_mistletoe_on_detroit.html http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140123/METRO01/301230110
[26] http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2014/03/detroit_police_chief_james_cra_16.html
[27] A weakness of this work is the lack of quantitative data surrounding the raid’s arrests; however, unless DPD releases statistics of the raid or DPD officers speak out about the raid, and pending a Freedom of Information Act request, it is difficult to secure more precise information.
[28] The CATO institute has already released one report about the nation-wide tactic of paramilitary raids: http://www.cato.org/publications/white-paper/overkill-rise-paramilitary-police-raids-america
[29] Perhaps a pertinent factor is that, for many Grosse Pointe suburbanites commuting to work downtown, Colony Arms is en route.
[30] http://www.freep.com/article/20130905/NEWS01/309050177/Stop-and-frisk-policies-Detroit
[31} http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2013/nov/19/new_york_ag_report_slams_nypd_st


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