Detroit, Emergency Managers, Racism — October 12, 2013 at 10:33 am

Detroit Emergency Manager appointee: “Can I shoot someone in a hoodie?” Yeah, he’s a white guy.


Gee, why would ANYONE be offended by THAT?

After several years of rampant vandalism and arson on Devil’s Night (the night before Halloween) in Detroit, Mayor Dennis Archer created “Angels’ Night” in 1995 which enlisted the help of Detroit citizens in the evenings around Halloween to help law enforcement stem the tide. As part of Angels’ Night, city officials have traditionally participated by riding around the city as part of the neighborhood patrols to help keep the peace.

When recently-appointed Detroit Chief Financial Officer Jim Bonsall learned of this and learned of his expected role, he had no interest. He asked his staff if he couldn’t get a police escort, could he “shoot someone in a hoodie?”

Here’s how it went down, as described in a letter of complaint (pdf) penned by Cheryl Johnson, an African American woman who was demoted from finance director to city treasurer by Bonsall who is white:

On September 18, in a meeting atttended by Jim Bonsall, Chief Compliance Officer Gary Brown, Deputy Finance Director Michael Jamison and myself, a discussion ensued about Angels’ Night. I informed Jim, my immediate supervisor, of the fact that appointees patrol the three nights to help protect the City. He appeared smug as he made the comment that he shouldn’t have to participate since he was an appointer and not an appointee. He then asked if could have three police officers ride with him if he had to patrol. I informed him that we ride with either a colleague, a family member or a friend. Jim stated that he wouldn’t subject his family to that and then said, “can I shoot someone in a hoodie?”

This incident is just one of many described by Johnson her letter which is a riveting read. Bonsall has obviously assumed his position with a gigantic chip on his shoulder and an assumption that everyone in the Detroit city government is incompetent and deserving of his derision. He has, according to Johnson, exhibited a pattern of disrespectful behavior that she says amounts to harassment.

It’s clear that Bonsall, who is the Chief Financial Officer for the largest city ever to go through a Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy, does not view City workers as people who should be treated with dignity and respect. He has come in from the outside and, in classic Snyder administration style, acted in a way that is not only counter to forming a true partnership, but actually creates an antagonistic relationship between City workers and the outsiders sent in to “fix things” for them.

Bonsall has now been suspended with pay by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr who appointed him to the position in July.

Bonsall released this statement:

I apologize and am sorry for having offended coworkers over comments I made during a recent meeting. Regardless of the outcome of the internal investigation or whether I keep my job as a result of it, it was never my intention to offend anyone.

If it wasn’t his intention to offend anyone, then he is simply too insensitive to be in the position of power he’s in as the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan try to work together to move forward resolving the city’s financial crisis. The last thing they need is someone with this attitude and this profound lack of understanding about working together.

Jim Bonsall should be fired.

[Photo credit: Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog]