Why the City’s 1st Female Deputy Police Chief Won’t See ‘Detroit’

Detroit film poster

It’s been 50 years since violence tore up the streets of Detroit during the summer of 1967.

Some refer to the civil unrest that took place that week as the “12th Street Riots,” while others call the historic moment the “Detroit Rebellion of 1967.”

Fueled by the anger of a community—a Black community—that was long fed up by decades of racial injustice, police brutality and institutional racism, the Detroit Riots finally erupted on 12th Street and Clairmount on July 23, 1967.

Now, Detroit, a Kathryn Bigelow-directed film, seeks to tell the tale of events that led to the shooting deaths of three Black men at the Algiers Motel.

But one woman won’t be watching it.

Mary Jarrett Jackson, the city’s first female deputy police chief, investigated the Algiers Motel incident, the event that the film is loosely based on.

“I haven’t seen the movie. I choose not to,” Jackson, 86, told Huffington Post. “The riots were a difficult time.”

Some memories are just too traumatic to relive and for Jackson, this is one of them.

“During the riots, I was still in the labs. I investigated cases that arose, like the Algiers Motel case,” said Jackson, who also served as the former Detroit police crime lab chief. “The way they brutalized those Black men, I did the forensic work on that. There was lots of evidence, but they didn’t want that brought out. I don’t want to necessarily revisit that.”

Jackson had been assigned to the Algiers Motel case that summer. She looked at the bodies of three teens, Carl Cooper, 17, Aubrey Pollard, 19, and Fred Temple, 18.

As if the discovery wasn’t painful enough to deal with, Jackson recalls working during a time when Blacks weren’t welcomed with open arms on the force.

“They would come in the laboratory and say, ’How many n****rs did you kill today? Or beat up today?’”

That fateful evening when the teen’s were discovered, Jackson says seven Black men and two White women were viciously beaten by police officers at the Algiers Motel.

“There were some White girls there, with the young men. They were willingly there. That upset the police,” Jackson said. “The officers divided those kids up and took them in different rooms, beat them up and did some awful things to their bodies by ramming things into their genitalia, up their anus.”

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Jackson worked as a forensic serologist. She was tasked with inspecting blood found at the scene of the crime.

“When I went out there to do the lab work, it was awful to look at those kids beaten as they were, shot in the head,” she said. “It should have been prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

As a result of the riots, 43 people were killed and more than 1,100 were injured. At least 7,000 were arrested and more than 2,500 businesses were destroyed.

When asked by the publication her thoughts on how far the country has come, Jackson said that while she’d like to remain hopeful, America hasn’t learned much from its past mistakes.

“We’re not dealing with racism in the country,” she said. “We smooth things over, hope everything is quiet and we act like it’s all good. If we talk to each other and we acknowledge that we could live together … that would be a good thing.”

Read the complete interview at Huffington Post.


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