White Detroit police officer Gary Steele is being charged on 11 counts and was fired after posting racist videos on Snapchat of a 23-year-old Black woman, Ariel Moore, who had her car impounded.
Steele had been serving a paid suspension until it came out that Steele had used similar racist terms previously and the charges were brought for “the social media post incident, the improper characterization of a community member, and Steele knowingly making false statements during investigation interviews,” according to CNN.
The young woman’s car was towed after she was stopped for an expired registration. She was walking home alone in the cold on the side of the road on Jan. 30 when Steele and his partner posted a video on Snapchat saying “Bye, Felicia.”
The Snapchat video also included a “Celebrate Black History Month” filter with the caption “What Black girl magic looks like,” to mock the woman.
Steele, who had been on the force for 18 years, did offer the woman a ride, according to Police Chief James Craig – unsurprisingly, the female motorist declined.
Steele’s partner is also in trouble. He was suspended and will be facing a disciplinary hearing this week.
As the police department has conducted an internal review, it was found that there are issues of racism only in the 6th Precinct afternoon shift, when Steele and his partner worked. According to the Detroit News, an officer that criticized the Snapchat of Moore was ostracized by the others on the shift and booted out of a private Snapchat that the police department said had “inappropriate” content.
The city of Detroit did pay for the woman’s towing fees, because they believe the officer’s mocking Snapchat videos were “inappropriate.”
Law enforcement and the justice system in Detroit has faced intense criticism historically for racism and profiling in the face of compelling data. In 2000, Detroit’s rate of fatal police shootings was the highest in the nation.
A 2004 study found that Black drivers are 79% more likely to be stopped, cited, searched and arrested than white people. According to the Detroit Metropolitan Area Communities Study (DMAC)’s 2017 survey, only 1% of Detroiters believe that police are “more likely to use deadly force against a white person” compared to 52% that believe that police are more likely to use deadly force against a Black person.
Black people make up 70% of the jail population in the county as the city has decreased its mental health institutions and increased the county prison industrial complex instead by building more jails. According to Humanity In Action, 62% of people in Wayne County jails have not been convicted of a crime but are being detained because they cannot post bail, thus leaving them unable to provide for their families and more likely to accept a guilty plea bargain just to try and get out of the system as quickly as possible.