DETROIT – “I’ll stick on you that’s why they call me Pitbull cause I’m the man of the land. When they see me, they say woo!” These lyrics from the Baha Men’s infamous “Who Let The Dogs Out?” ask a very pertinent question. Perhaps the Michigan State Police (MSP) need to put some of their ofﬁcers on a leash to prevent the dogs from chewing away at suspects entitled to apprehension and not digestion. State Trooper Parker Surbrook, in a horriﬁc, inhumane demonstration of what not to do, has violated the ethics, and policies of the Michigan State Police. In an incident that occurred Nov. 13, 2020, he is seen arresting a suspect while his K-9 partner chewed away on his body. Another state trooper can be seen on the other side of their vehicle apprehending another suspect after their vehicle had crashed into a tree. Under the Michigan State Police K-9 unit training, two elements of this training stand out.
1. Obedience – “MSP canines are trained in obedience learning basic commands such as sit, stay, down, and come.”
2. Aggression – “MSP tracking canines are taught to defend themselves and their handlers. However, K-9s are only used for personal defense in situations where the likelihood of serious injury to the ofﬁcer or another person is imminent.”
The video released by the Michigan State Police just last week for a crime that occurred in November 2020 begs for another question. What took so long? This heinous offense by Ofﬁcer Parker Surbrook, recorded by an in-car video, reflects an individual who appears to be intoxicated from the adrenaline of rage and indifference. He can be heard yelling at the victim agonizing on the ground, pleading for his life, while canine teeth penetrated his body. The victim echoes a chorus of, “Please ofﬁcer call him off. Please ofﬁcer he’s in my face. Please sir, please sir, please sir, get him off.” Ofﬁcer Surbrook’s response in expletives “MF” and said, “I don’t care.” In other words, your life does not matter. The victim further indicates, “Please sir, he’s trying to choke me. Please sir.” Ofﬁcer Surbrook’s repeats in expletives “FU”. Again, “I don’t care.” Surbrook continues to yell commands at the victim, whose name we still do not know, “don’t f***g move.” He continues to march around the car, handcuffs in his left hand, with some sort of inappropriate exuberance. Is this the effect of rage and hate gone wild? It must be pointed out the other ofﬁcer, who obviously heard all that was going on, made no move to get Trooper Surbrook to call off his dog. We never heard Surbrook utter the commands to his dog, sit, stay, down, or come.
Watching this incident on video takes us back to a time when dogs were used to chase down enslaved Africans running for their freedom. It reminds us of the dogs used against civil rights workers by police departments and state troopers in the south.
They were simply trying to register to vote and to exercise their constitutional franchise. This behavior is totally unacceptable. It must be rooted out. Those ofﬁcers guilty of these actions must be held accountable. The victim, already injured from the car crash into the tree, lay agonizing on the ground for over four minutes before being handcuffed, while the dog continued to chew away at his body. Ofﬁcer Surbrook was in no threat of serious injury nor was any other person threatened by any imminent danger. This is why we need the George Floyd Justice Act to be signed into law by the U.S. Senate. In the meantime, a comprehensive training program needs to be implemented to address the culture within the MSP. Training could be conducted by Wayne County Community College District, Wayne State University, the Detroit Police Department, or other community organizations. These organizations should be capable of psychological assessment, deal with implicit bias, and address the necessity of cultural diversity within the department. Testing for emotional and mental state of police ofﬁcers must be increased and expanded to determine their current mental condition. Psychological testing and serious evaluation should be clearly administered prior to the hiring of potential police ofﬁcers. It should involve racial sensitivity, gender orientation, and geographic location. It should further include agencies and individuals outside of the MSP and the traditional models used by the state. It must include accountability for misbehavior and a no tolerance policy for the misuse of authority. This will build a better trust among the community and police ofﬁcials.
There is a systemic racial problem in policing. We are reminded of a Rochester police ofﬁcer pepper spraying a woman suspected of shoplifting, clinging to the hand of her three-year-old child, chased, thrown down on the ground, and tackled. This was done recently while her threeyear-old stood watching in horror. It is a problem that must be addressed, as jury selection begins today in the trial of former Minneapolis police ofﬁcer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin is the ofﬁcer who held his knee on the neck of George Floyd for nearly nine minutes, while in the middle of the street. He suffocated him until he could no longer breathe. We cannot allow these incidents to just come and go after a few weeks of protest. The commitment for policy changes too often fades as media coverage dissipates. A recent USA Today Ipsos Poll published last Friday, March 5, indicated that two-thirds of Black Americans (64%) view what happened to George Floyd as murder. Fewer than one-third of white people believe that it was murder. It was 60% in June 2020 who believed it was murder. Now it has decreased to only 36% of Americans who believe that what happened to George Floyd was indeed murder. How soon we forget. Now we must add this latest victim in Michigan being chewed by a dog, begging for his life. It is good that the state police are now attempting some degree of transparency. However, transparency without accountability is irresponsibility. These troopers need to be held accountable for their action and inaction. The MSP, if it is truly to be a department to be trusted with integrity and as a model for the state, must set the example. Who let the dogs out? (Who, Who, Who, Who?) Surely, it must not be the Michigan State Police.