Oak Park is not going to take a federal lawsuit against it and Oxford Village Councilman Erik Dolan, who works for the city as a public safety officer, lying down.
“The city stands by Officer Dolan,” said John J. Gillooly, the city attorney.
“We will mount an extremely vigorous defense on his behalf and at the end, I am extremely confident that Officer Dolan will be dismissed from this case as will the City of Oak Park when one finds that it is this individual who knew what he was doing (and) who was trying to goad the officer into something.”
A 32-page civil lawsuit was filed June 1 in U.S. District Court against Oak Park, the city’s public safety department and Dolan, a white officer who’s worked for the municipality since 1996. The plaintiff, a 24-year-old African American man and Southfield resident named Dominique McCray, claims Dolan violated his constitutional rights, assaulted him and falsely arrested him on May 31, 2016.
“Our officers had a right to arrest the subject on that date and time. And we firmly believe that he was not deprived of any rights guaranteed him by the Constitution,” Gillooly said.
McCray was arrested for disorderly conduct/person and resisting and obstructing a police officer, both misdemeanors, after he allegedly uttered the phrase “(expletive) the police” as he was walking along the street past Dolan and another person.
When Dolan repeatedly commanded McCray to stop and return, he failed to do so and was defiant, according to the police report. Four officers arrived as backup. McCray and the friend accompanying him were arrested.
John H. Elliot, the Bloomfield Hills attorney representing McCray, alleges Dolan, who’s served on the Oxford Village Council since April 2016, threatened his client, who claims to have a heart condition, with a taser and “knocked (McCray) to the ground” before handcuffing him and placing him in a patrol car. According to Elliot, his client maintains he “never said anything” and all he was doing at the time was talking to his mother on his cell phone while on his way to play basketball with his friend.
Both charges against McCray were dismissed by a 45th District Court judge on Aug. 24, 2016. According to the judge’s order, the application of the disorderly conduct law to McCray’s alleged speech was “unconstitutional.”
“Because there was no violation of the statute and no crime committed,” the resisting and obstructing charge was dismissed as well, the order stated.
In response to the federal lawsuit, Gillooly said, “We’re extremely disappointed that an attorney and his client would attempt to basically ruin the personal and professional reputation of an individual [Dolan] who’s done absolutely fantastic (work) as a community leader (and) as a public service officer for decades.”
To him, the suit is “designed” to “basically extort money from a city.”
“They know, without a doubt, that many of the allegations contained in their complaint are false,” he said.
“They’ve gone out of their way to try to essentially portray this department and this officer as somehow racially intolerant individuals by including bits and pieces of videos from many cases, including this one, which are incomplete, incomprehensible and an improper manner in which to try a lawsuit,” Gillooly noted.
Gillooly said McCray and his attorney are “trying to hide things” and he vowed to “expose who the plaintiff is.”
He said McCray “was not a good, law-abiding citizen in the past.”
“We’re going to expose his criminal background and we’re going to expose the inaccuracies contained in his complaint,” he said.
When asked for specifics regarding McCray’s alleged criminal background, Gillooly replied, “We are going to expose this individual’s past and leave it at that. We’re not going to show our cards at this point.”
In a June 2 letter e-mailed to the Leader, Elliot wrote that McCray “has no criminal background.”
“This is a young man who had never been in trouble before,” Elliot told this reporter during a previous interview. “He’s a bright, articulate young man. Polite. (He) had no reason to fear the police.”
Elliot told this reporter during a previous interview. “He’s a bright, articulate young man. Polite. (He) had no reason to fear the police.”
Elliot told this reporter that McCray attempted to file a criminal complaint against Dolan, but was denied by the Oak Park Department of Public Safety.
“For whatever reason, Oak Park Police said it’s their policy – they would not take a (criminal) complaint against their officer,” Elliot said.
When asked about this, Gillooly responded, “That’s true. Most departments don’t. You can make a citizen’s complaint about somebody, but generally, to make a criminal complaint you need to go to (an outside agency), for instance, the Michigan State Police (or) the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
Law enforcement agencies often will not investigate alleged criminal offenses involving their own officers in order to avoid potential conflict-of-interest issues.
“You want to make a citizen’s complaint about any of our officers, we look forward to those,” Gillooly said. “But we do not investigate our own, so to speak, for alleged violations of criminal (law). No department does.”
When asked if a citizen’s complaint was ever filed with regard to the McCray incident, Gillooly replied, “Not that I’m aware of.”
Attached to the lawsuit were exhibits containing documentation from Oak Park’s public safety department that showed prior to the McCray incident, Dolan received four citizen complaints regarding his conduct in the field between 2014 and 2016.
Two were found to be “inconclusive,” meaning “the allegations could not be clearly proven nor disproved,” while the other two found Dolan “committed an act of misconduct” and the recommended action was he receive “counseling.”
Gillooly was critical of the inclusion of these in the suit. “To attach two inconclusive personnel complaints . . . it’s outrageous,” he said. “Those won’t be admitted as evidence . . . Those will never see the light of court. They’re meant to inflame. They’re meant to cause Mr. Dolan harm. And it’s far beyond the decency of what a general attorney would do in terms of filing. These are never included, ever.”