Two Detroit Police officers are facing home invasion charges after they allegedly stormed into a man's home without a warrant and hauled him off to jail.
The cops' alleged actions are horrifying, but their case is an example of the system working the way it should, or at least close to that, thanks to body cameras.
The home invasion occurred this past January, when Sgt. Paul Glaza and Officer Bradley Clark—both members of a burglary task force—knocked on 28-year-old Tashar Cornelius's door. "I was in my house making a sandwich and the police came to my house searching for a suspect" named "Mike," Cornelius told reporters, according to WJBK.
Cornelius is a convicted felon, but he wasn't who the cops were looking for. He told them there was no "Mike" in the house, but officers didn't change their minds. "They couldn't provide me with a valid search warrant. They didn't have my permission to enter my property," Cornelius said.
He closed the door on them. Then, "they kicked in the door and came in with their weapons drawn," he recalled, according to The Detroit News. "One handcuffed me right away and they ransacked the house," Cornelius added.
The officers had noticed a Taser lying on the table and allegedly used that to justify taking him to jail, where Cornelius said he was held for 36 hours. "My lawyer assured me there were no charges against me. Finally they just released me and I walked out of there," he said.
Cornelius said he plans to sue. But his claims might have been difficult to prove if the cops' alleged actions hadn't been caught on camera. Detroit Police Assistant Chief James White said at a press conference yesterday that the officers' supervisor conducted a random review of their body camera footage. That "random" review led to an internal affairs investigation.
The officers have been placed on paid administrative leave. Last week, things got a whole lot worse for them. Per The Detroit News:
[Glaza and Clark] were charged Friday in 36th District Court with second-degree home invasion, misconduct in office, malicious destruction of property under $200, and entering without a homeowner's permission in connection with the alleged incident Jan. 22.
Both officers were released on bond.
A statement from Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Maria Miller seems to corroborate Cornelius's recollection of how events transpired. The officers "entered a home without a search warrant," Miller said. She added: "They also did not have an arrest warrant for the person they were searching for, who was not in the house. They instead detained and arrested the homeowner."
This case highlights the importance of police body cameras. Yes, it took eight months for the officers to be charged, which is probably too long. But ultimately, the system worked: Two cops allegedly did a bad thing, and instead of getting off scot-free, they were caught.
Detroit Police Department policy requires all officers who regularly interact with the public to wear body cameras. Those cameras are supposed to improve transparency and keep the powerful accountable. It looks like that's exactly what happened here.