Traffic infraction results in federal lawsuit

By J. PATRICK PEPPER
Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — A recently filed federal lawsuit alleges that police cordoned off an entire block, called in dogs and drew their weapons — all for a man whose biggest offense was failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign.

The lawsuit, filed July 2 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, also accuses the Police Department of running an “unconstitutional commercial enterprise,” by way of overzealous traffic ticket writing policies.

Named as defendants in the suit are Officer Michael Krause, and both the cities and police departments of Dearborn Heights and Dearborn.

The lawsuit alleges that:

On March 10, 61-year-old Joseph Saad had just pulled into his driveway when he heard someone shout to him. As he turned around he saw a police officer, who was identified as Krause, and told him he would go inside to retrieve his wallet and identification. Krause allegedly pulled out his gun and said he would shoot if Saad went through the door.

Panicked, Saad ran through the door crying, “The police are going to shoot me.” His 78-year-old mother, Zihra, who was tending to her Alzheimer’s disease-stricken husband at the time, got up to check the commotion.

When she made it to the front door, Krause was standing on the porch and pointed the gun, at point-blank range, at her chest and demanded entry into the house. She denied his command and asked what her son had done.

Krause replied he could “lawfully shoot the elderly woman,” and that she’d be “sorry” if she didn’t let him in, because he then would “flood her street with police officers,” the suit alleges.

She continued to deny his entry and shortly thereafter backup arrived. First it was just one officer, who allegedly also drew his gun on the Saad matriarch. Then 10 to 15 more officers arrived with police dogs. Some of the officers were from Dearborn, which is why the city and department were included in the suit.

A group of officers went to the back of the house along with a dog and made their way inside, despite the pleadings of Zihra Saad, the suit alleges. Inside, they threatened to release the dog if Joseph Saad didn’t present himself immediately. Saad complied and came out of the basement where he had been hiding.

The suit claims the arresting officers put the handcuffs so tightly on Saad that he lost sensation in his hands for the following two weeks. It also alleges the officers said things like “beat the (s—) out of him” – though it makes no mention of an assault – and also that Saad should have just “shut his mouth and taken a ticket like the 22 citizens before him.”

That last quote embodies one of the key contentions of the lawsuit, which is that the incentive structure for police traffic ticket-writing in Dearborn Heights is slanted so much toward aggressive enforcement that officers are not incentivized to make “proper” discretionary calls.