DETROIT (WXYZ) — Imagine for a second you get into a car with a friend and without your knowledge, there is a gun in the vehicle.
According to a former Detroit Police Department detective, it used to be regular practice if stopped by police that everyone in the vehicle could be arrested and charged, even if your fingerprints or DNA are nowhere to be found on that weapon.
That is until a 35-year decorated veteran complained publicly about the practice and has since filed a whistleblower lawsuit.
Marcellus Ball retired from the Detroit Police Department this year after 35 years on the job working task force with the government, domestic violence, narcotics and more.
“You put your life on the line for this department,” WXYZ’s Carolyn Clifford said.
“I was in a dope house, guy held me hostage over 10 minutes with a double barrel shotgun up to my face — he rested it on the bridge of my nose,” Ball said. “I saw my death.”
Twenty-five years as a detective, Ball was never disciplined and was honored by the president at the White House for heroism when his precinct was attacked by a gunman.
“I love investigation, I love the city of Detroit, I love the Detroit Police Department,” Ball said.
But he noticed an alarming uptick in carrying a concealed weapon cases and everyone in the vehicle being arrested and charged without probable cause.
“I'm seeing this, I don't like this. My officers are seeing this, they don't feel comfortable typing this, I'm denying it,” Ball said.
Ball says he complained to people of higher rank and requested a meeting with former Detroit Police Chief James Craig but was denied the meeting.
WXYZ asked Craig about it and he gave this statement:
"I don't recall a meeting requested by Ball. That does not mean he didn't try through the chain of command and was denied. During my tenure I have met with lots of officers at their requests."
Ball says his power as a supervisor to deny an arrest warrant for a CCW case if he deemed it without probable cause was stripped away. It's something he says he had done for more than two decades.
“As a result of me complaining, my immediate supervisor took that right from me and I had those rights my entire career as a supervisor,” Ball said.
Ball says the policy was a verbal one in the 10th precinct.
“You're a supervisor and you make the statement that everybody in the car if a gun is found, everybody is going to jail, I don't care what the circumstances are,” Ball said he was told.
The former detective says that action can ruin a life.
“You have guns found in the trunk, six people in the car, all six people get arrested for that gun when you cannot prove they had it,” Ball said.
“What happens to the lives of those six individuals who were in that car and they're linked to that weapon, those lives are affected forever,” Ball continued. “Employment applications for whether you have ever been arrested will have to be checked 'yes' and it stays on your record."
He says 99.9% of the people affected by this were African American and Latino.
Ball spoke out publicly to the media in May of this year. The next day, this memo from White went up in DPD precincts.
"He put out a teletype to the entire department saying be conscious of what you're doing, make sure you have individualized probable cause,” Ball said.
Ball says he felt under attack for voicing concern. He was moved from the detective's bureau to the 12th precinct.
“Get called in the office and told I no longer work here, I'm going downtown because I'm being investigated for this and for that — I have 35 years on this job,” Ball said.
“He was more than chastised, he was threatened, he was demeaned, he was belittled, he was threatened to be moved to a different department,” Ball’s attorney Todd Perkins said.
Perkins filed the whistleblower lawsuit.
“So as an employee, if you see something that is wrong and you identify that to a supervisor, if that institution takes negative action toward you, that's a classic whistleblower's case,” Perkins said.
WXYZ sat down with DPD's Director of Professional Standards and Constitutional Policies Chris Graveline for a response.
“What's the response from the police department?” Clifford asked.
“First, we have a lot of respect for Detective Ball, he has given 35 good years of service,” Graveline said.
He says they were surprised by Ball's public complaint on May 27, 2021. Graveline says Ball was moved over a dispute with his supervisor at the 10th precinct and that Ball could have made a formal complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission.
Graveline says they have investigated the cases Ball said he had concerns about.
“Of the six cases he identified, three CCW found were correctly done by Detroit police. The other three all had situations where multiple people could be arrested, but then did you need to arrest person three and four,” Graveline said.
Ball says other officers expressed fear about speaking up. For him, he says he had no choice.
“Why did this cut so deep?” Clifford said.
“I don't care if you are Black, white, Hispanic, Arab — I care about you, I care about your rights,” Ball said.