NewsLocal NewsInvestigations

Accused by 6 women of sexual harassment, WCCCD’s police chief remains on the job

College denies charges, claims allegations stem from 'extortion scheme'
Posted at 8:45 PM, Apr 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-04 20:45:29-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — The longtime chief of the Wayne County Community College District Police Authority has been accused by at least a half-dozen women of sexual harassment, a 7 Action News Investigation reveals.

The allegations against Chief Darrick Muhammad are contained in court records, at least a dozen sworn affidavits, internal college e-mails and outside investigations.

They all stem from a lawsuit filed by a former employee, currently in litigation, who says the chief sexually harassed her and others.

Muhammad, who denies all the charges through a college spokeswoman, is also alleged to have retaliated against accusers by both former and current employees.

“Chief Muhammad should have been let go a long time ago,” said Vanessa Liddell, a former WCCCD officer. “And the only reason I feel like he’s not is the college is trying to hide this big secret of what’s going on with him.”

The college’s police authority patrols its six campuses throughout Wayne County, protecting almost 70,000 students. Liddell worked for the authority for nearly six years along with her mother.

She said during that time, Muhammad treated her more like a love interest than a subordinate.

She described the chief as flirtatious, often complimenting her appearance and calling her at strange hours.

“He would have me call him in the morning to wake him up for work,” she recalled, “or he would call late at night.”

Liddell recalled how, two years after she and her mother began working at the college, Muhammad said he wanted her to decide who should receive a promotion to lieutenant: her or her mother.

Lidell ultimately decided the promotion would go to her. One night, she was called into the chief’s office.

“His secretary was gone and he said, ‘Well I was going to give the promotion to you. I just wanted to see if you were going to give it to your mother or if you were going to take it,’” she recalls.

“He asked me to give him a kiss on the cheek,” Lidell said, adding later: “I felt like if I didn’t do it, that I was going to be let go.”

The claim is included in her sworn affidavit.

She said she was ultimately fired after reporting Muhammad for sexual harassment, and she is hardly the only woman to do so.

Her own mother did too, according to an affidavit, saying that when she worked as an officer, Muhammad said “he had dreams about me and dreamt about dating my daughter.”

7 Action News is not naming the alleged victims without their permission.

A third female officer, also in an affidavit, said that Muhammad would call her to his house on campus, then answer the door in only a bathrobe “and his private parts…visible.”

She says she was “sexually harassed” repeatedly, ultimately resigning because of it.

A fourth accuser is Regina Bonner, who worked for the college beginning in 2018 and is currently suing the college.

“The chief initially started by complimenting her appearance,” said her attorney Shawn Head. “He escalated by inviting her over to his house. Asking her to sleep with him…she rebuffed his advances, and she was retaliated against.”

Bonner claims in her 2020 lawsuit that she was fired, and her fiancé later arrested, for reporting the chief’s sexual harassment. The college denies the charges.

The chief’s fifth accuser claimed that he “caressed her hair and face,” even after she told him to stop, asking “about her relationship status,” told her she needed a “sugar daddy” and kept a photo of her and her then-boyfriend where he “erased” the boyfriend from the image.

An internal investigation found the chief “displayed poor judgment”, “violated…professional standards” but did not commit sexual harassment. That employee entered into a confidential settlement with the college, paid over $41,600 in exchange for her silence.

The chief participated in anti-harassment training as a result of the settlement.

A sixth female officer, still on the force today, accused Muhammad of sexual harassment in 2020. We don’t know the details or how that complaint was resolved, because the college refused to turn over its investigation, claiming it is privileged.

7 Action News began looking into Chief Muhammad in 2021.

A public records request seeking all complaints, investigations, discipline, lawsuit settlements and other records related to misconduct allegations involving Muhammad was denied by the college twice.

The college claimed that the records were exempt from disclosure because they were included in the personnel records of law enforcement. But according to multiple former employees at WCCCD, Muhammad’s fondness for younger female employees was well-known.

“Everyone at the college was aware, it was very apparent that Chief liked young, petite Latina females,” said Dan Rebar, an officer who worked for the college for nearly five years.

He says he was ultimately fired after questioning how younger, inexperienced female employees kept being hired, and sometimes in the strangest of places.

In a separate affidavit, a mother—who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of her allegations—detailed how her teenage daughter was offered a job by the chief while she was working the drive-thru of a fast-food restaurant in Southfield.

“She said he came through the McDonald’s drive-thru and he approached her about getting a better job and gave her his card,” she said. “I remember her coming home and showing me the card and asking me, was it for real.”

Her daughter was 17 at the time, her mother said, and had no prior experience working for a police department. She would be hired in the police dispatch unit, and was later promoted to corporal.

“She was a very nice woman,” Rebar said, “but she was not qualified for the positions that he gave her in the slightest.”

Her mother became suspicious about the chief and her daughter, she says, after noticing gifts like plane tickets.

“I went into her belongings and that’s where I found the tickets, along with a birthday card from Darrick Muhammad,” she said. “One was in her name, one was in his.”

The mother of the young woman told us that she made dozens of calls to Dr. Curtis Ivery, the chancellor of the college district, over concerns she had about her daughter’s relationship with Muhammad. She said her calls were never returned.

Through a spokeswoman, Dr. Ivery denied requests for an interview.

The slew of allegations against the chief are bolstered by other employees who say, under oath, that they were aware of his sexual harassment. One former officer says he was twice called to Muhammad’s on-campus home to remove women no longer welcome there.

As allegations against the Chief mounted, at least one officer complained in an email to Muhammad that he instructed her to “harass, write up, investigate and interrogate named witnesses.” That officer requested—and late received—a demotion. She still works there today.

In March, 7 Action News requests to speak to Muhammad in an on-camera interview.

Through spokeswoman Tina Bassett, he declined, saying there would be no interview because of the pending litigation.

The college refused an on-camera interview of any kind, offering only for a meeting between a reporter and its spokeswoman and attorney, but prohibiting it from being recorded and insisting none of it could be on the record.

7 Action News insisted in an on-the-record interview, and the college again declined.

Instead, WCCD released a statement that reads: “These accusations are currently in litigation which preclude our ability to comment. That being said, WCCCD denies ALL of the accusations as being false. It is the College’s opinion that this lawsuit is a scheme that was calculated to extort money from the College and its insurance carrier. We will not allow this to happen.”

Today, years removed from her time as WCCCD officer, Vanessa Liddell says she is far from healed.

“I feel like one day, it’s going to come out, the truth is going to come out from all these people who have been like me who were too scared to say anything,” she said.

“I’m not going to be quiet about it anymore.”

7 Action News reporter Brett Kast contributed to this report.

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at Ross.Jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.