‘Go back to Mexico’ remark is not what got Detroit lieutenant suspended

An internal investigation into a Detroit lieutenant who told a protester to “go back to Mexico” uncovered other offensive comments he made during a recent pro-Palestinian demonstration, prompting his suspension Wednesday.

Chief James White plans to ask the Detroit Police Commission to withhold Lt. Brandon Cole’s pay as early as Thursday afternoon.

At least one Detroit police commissioner, Willie Burton, plans to call for “immediate disciplinary action.”

In viral video footage posted on social media, Cole taunted a Palestinian activist outside Huntington Place on Sunday, saying “Why don’t you just go back to Mexico?”

The activist, Lexis Zeidan, grew up in Dearborn and now lives in Detroit, though according to investigators the “Mexico” remark was a reference to the fact that she had recently been on vacation. Investigators are focusing on Cole’s decision to disclose information from Zeidan’s social media page.

During the internal investigation, police also reviewed body camera footage that revealed Cole antagonizing a Black protester with a racially insensitive remark, according to two sources close to the investigation. Details of that remark have not yet been disclosed.

Burton says he’s going to call for White to demote Cole and demand better handling of protests.

“The department must provide the board an updated review of their training procedures for officers dealing with protesters,” Burton tells Metro Times. “This unacceptable incident is one of many that has cost taxpayers millions of dollars in lawsuits and eroded trust in the police out in the community.”

William Davis, a civil rights activist and former Detroit police commissioner, says Cole should be fired.

“His job is to de-escalate and not to antagonize anybody,” Davis, president of the Detroit chapter of the National Action Network, tells Metro Times. “Anybody who abuses social media and says something like that doesn’t have the right demeanor to serve in the Detroit Police Department, especially in a leadership position. You should be unappointed from that position and go back to your suburban community and look for another job.”

Davis says these kinds of problems will continue because DPD is increasingly hiring white, suburban cops to serve in a predominantly Black city.

In a statement Wednesday, White announced he was suspending Cole because “additional facts” about the case had surfaced.

“Having considered this new information, my concerns over the events of May 19 have worsened,” White said.

DPD declined to release more information.

You can tune into the Detroit Police Commission meeting beginning at 3 p.m. on Zoom.

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