BROWNSTOWN TOWNSHIP — An alleged discriminatory remark made to an Arab American family by a Huron Clinton Metropolitan Authority police officer is growing in concern as advocacy groups demand action be taken against the officer.
The officer, who allegedly told an Arab American family to “Go back where you came from” at Lake Erie Metropolitan Park in Brownstown Township, is on leave until an internal investigation has concluded, according to a report by MediaNewsGroup.
The incident happened on Sunday, June 30. While the alleged remark was not captured on a cellphone video, the aftermath was videotaped and posted on Facebook on Monday, July 1, before it went viral on social media.
Someone in the park began videotaping the incident after the alleged remark was heard and another person shouted what was allegedly said to the Arab American family, who were apparently unaware.
In the video posted on social media, the officer is questioned about the remark by some parkgoers who appear to be agitated.
The officer immediately says, “Illinois” a few times in an apparent attempt to distort what he meant.
Metropark Police Chief Michael Reese said he will not discuss any details of the case until the investigation is concluded.
Lake Erie Metropark Police should conclude their investigation of this troubling incident as quickly as possible and take appropriate disciplinary action based on the results of that investigation. – Dawud Walid, executive director of CAIR-MI
“I don’t want to get into the facts of the investigation,” he said. “When the investigation has concluded we will release all of the facts. We will be transparent.”
The video went viral on social media and was seen by various advocacy groups. The officer is in uniform in his marked vehicle.
According to Reese, the department was made aware of the video last Wednesday and the officer was placed on administrative leave on Thursday.
“That’s how we do it here,” Reese said.
He said every complaint brought to the department is taken seriously and will be investigated, whether it is directed toward an officer or staff member.
He also said placing an officer on leave is done on a case-by-case situation.
As for this case in particular, Reese said the department is looking for the family allegedly targeted by the comments and the person who shot the video.
“I have no idea who sent the video,” Reese said. “Hopefully we will find out in the investigation.”
He said he doesn’t believe the investigation will take very long.
The Arab American News has identified the Arab American individual who was the subject of the alleged discriminatory remarks as Hadi Dagher, who was at the park with members of his immediate family. The person who captured the exchange and posted the video on his Facebook page has been identified as Frank White.
Meanwhile, the Michigan chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Michigan (CAIR-MI), part of the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, has called for disciplinary action against the officer.
“Lake Erie Metropark Police should conclude their investigation of this troubling incident as quickly as possible and take appropriate disciplinary action based on the results of that investigation,” said CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid. “The officer’s excuse for his remarks rings hollow given the spike in anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment we have seen nationwide promoted by Donald Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric and policies.”
The American Arab Civil Rights League (ACRL) which is based in Dearborn, also has contacted the police department, saying the comments insulted the visitors to the park and called the officer’s alleged comments intolerable.
In a letter to Huron-Clinton Metroparks Police Department, ACRL chairman Nasser Beydoun demanded that the department take “appropriate action to protect and defend the citizens you represent.”