By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst
Oct. 13, 2009 – The Motor City could have nine new members on city council on Election Day. I was in Detroit this past weekend to serve as Mistress of Ceremonies for Midwest Coalition of African American Police Officers (MCAAPO) annual awards dinner.
The event was honoring law enforcement officers with careers spanning up to 30 years in crime fighting in the metropolitan area.
Detroit once the Mecca for the automotive industry and the Motown sound is now plagued with double digit unemployment [estimated to be at 17 percent] abandon homes, and the highest rates of city flight in country.
But none of these negatives have discouraged the five top law enforcement officers honored Saturday evening by their peers for the tough jobs they perform daily.
The MCAAPO honored top law enforcement officers ; Darryl Boykin, Chief of Police in South Bend, Ind., Gregory Gaskin, Chief of Police for Inkster, MI, Theodore G. Caldwell, Chief of Police for Highland Park, MI, Benny Napoleon, Wayne County Sheriff and Warren C. Evan, Chief of Police for Detroit.
The awards event was also a magnet for political hopefuls wanting the support with this important constituency less than a month before Election Day. I acknowledged several candidates in attendance with hopes of filling the vacant seats on the embattled Detroit City Council.
Former Detroit City Police officer Gary Brown is one of those candidates. Brown is one of the candidates who received a sizeable percentage of the vote during the primary. He’s also one of the two officers who was fired by former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick following the scandal that led to mayor’s trial and conviction. Brown sued the city and reached a million dollar settlement and now hopes to start a new career in politics.
Brown spoke passionately about what he would like to see in the city’s future – but told me expectations need to realistic. “We can still have a great city, it might not ever get back to a population of 2 million, but we can have a smaller successful city.”
Detroit City Council President Kenneth Cockrel, Jr., is also on the ballot in November. He was acting mayor during the turmoil with former mayor Kilpatrick, but lost in the special election to former MBA basketball player and businessman Dave Bing. Bing is also running for re-election.
Cockrel thanked the organization for hosting the conference in the city of Detroit saying he was fully aware they could have select other “Midwest” towns.
The wooing of these officers also brought Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) to the dinner to offer his well wishes to the men and women in blue. Conyers has had his own political battles this year in light of his wife’s guilty plea to bribery charges. If former city councilwoman Monica Conyers is convicted she could face up to five years in prison.
As a native Detroiter I hope to see things improve for the city and for the people whose lively hood depend on it bouncing back. Election Day could be is a fresh start the city needs to make it happen.