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Published on May 23, 2024
Detroit Police Officer Suspended Amid Investigation for Controversial Remarks to Protester During Biden VisitSource: Google Street View

A senior Detroit police officer has been suspended over a heated exchange with a protester during President Joe Biden’s recent visit, as per statements from Detroit police officials. Lt. Brandon Cole, previously relegated to administrative duty during an ongoing investigation, found himself without his badge and gun following new information that shed more light on the incident. Chief James White of the Detroit Police Department made the call after additional facts indicated that the personal remarks toward Lt. Cole, which triggered his controversial response, were made by an unidentified individual nearby, not by the protester he confronted.

During the President's appearance at the NAACP Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner at Huntington Place, Cole's interaction with a protester, erroneously believed to be a personal spat, escalated when he suggested to the protester "Why don't you just go back to Mexico?" captured in a viral video, as reported by The Detroit News. Originally, department spokespersons defended Cole’s remarks as referencing the protester’s recent vacation in Mexico he had learned about on Instagram, during a press conference on Monday.

The matter intensified after the clip spread across social media, with many viewers outraged at Lt. Cole's words to protester Lexis Zeidan, reported by FOX 2 Detroit. The protesters were voicing their concerns over U.S. military aid to Israel amid the Israel-Hamas conflict. Despite initially thinking Cole's remarks were influenced by Zeidan's personal jibes – which included taunts about Cole's marital status – new findings prompted Chief White to deepen his probe into the incident, expressing his growing concerns over the events of May 19.

An internal review into the potential policy infractions within the Mobile Field Force, the unit Cole was operating with, is underway. The Detroit Police Department aims to iron out deficiencies in operations, as cited by Chief White, according to FOX 2 Detroit. The scrutiny comes as the protest demonstrated larger issues at play within the department, specifically concerning leadership and the adherence to policies and training by officers.

Chief White, taking a firm stance on the expectations of leadership within the department, has resolved to make the requisite alterations to ensure such an incident remains an anomaly."My expectation for a lieutenant is that they perform at a high level, that they lead the men and women of this department and that you don't get into that personal engagement so there's no room for someone to misconstrue anything. This is not what we're looking for from our lieutenants and we will deal with that when our investigation is completed,” White told WWJ Newsradio

At Thursday's meeting of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, Commissioner Willie Burton plans to address the unresolved issue. Meanwhile, Lt. Cole remains suspended, awaiting the outcome of the full investigation.