George Hunter / The Detroit News
Dearborn Heights — A federal lawsuit alleges the city’s police department is engaged in an “unconstitutional commercial enterprise” because of the high number of traffic tickets written by police officers.
The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court, stems from a Marchv
10 case in which Dearborn Heights officers allegedly pulled a gun on a homeowner over an alleged traffic violation before illegally entering his home.
The suit claims that Dearborn Heights police are under pressure to write tickets in order to generate money, which prompted their actions.
Dearborn Heights police officials declined to comment on the pending lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, resident Joseph Saad was about to walk into his house on Melborn Street when he saw a police cruiser in his driveway. An officer told Saad he had rolled through a stop sign less than 100 feet from his home.
“(Saad) was standing near the door, and he told the officer he was going into the house to get his wallet,” said Saad’s attorney Nick Hadous. “The officer pulled out his gun and said, ‘You better not go through that door or I’ll shoot you.’ ”
According to the suit, Saad, 61, ran into the house “in a panic,” and told his parents, “the police are going to shoot me.”
When Saad’s mother, Zihra Saad, 78, went to the porch to see what was going on, the officer allegedly drew his gun on her. Later, according to the lawsuit, officers entered the home without the Saads’ permission.
“These acts were … the product of an ongoing conspiracy to conduct and operate a ‘commercial enterprise’ to generate municipal revenue under color of state law, a conspiracy which prompted the pursuit of Mr. and Mrs. Saad’s son and culminated in the egregious and severe violations of Mr. and Mrs. Saad’s Constitutional Rights,” claims the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of Zihra Saad and her 86-year-old husband, Mahmoud.
The suit further alleges the city’s failure to adhere to a 2006 law that mandates how communities should set speed limits is another indication of what Hadous called a “money-making scheme.”
The city, the suit claims, has “artificially set its speed limits too low,” and has failed to conduct speed studies or use the number of access points, such as driveways and cross streets, in order to set its speed limits, as mandated by the law.
“Because of this unconstitutional commercial enterprise, the City of Dearborn Heights and the Dearborn Heights Police Department and its officers have engaged in a pattern of systematic abuse of the rights of citizens,” the suit said.
University of Detroit-Mercy law professor Lawrence Dubin said the lawsuit may be mixing two issues.
“The allegations regarding the police department engaging in a commercial enterprise don’t seem relevant to the allegation that the police improperly entered the plaintiff’s home,” Dubin said.
Hadous said the two issues are related because the police’s aggressive actions were caused by the pressure to generate revenue through tickets.
In 2009, Dearborn Heights police wrote 42,957 moving violations, up from 26,622 in 2004, according to the State Court Administrator’s Office.
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From: The Detroit News