Why Detroit’s First Black Female Deputy Police Chief is Skipping ‘Detroit’

By Sameer Rao Jul 31, 2017

Mary Jarrett Jackson served almost a decade with the Detroit Police Department (DPD) before 1967, when Black community anger at racist police violence turned into unrest that the DPD, Michigan State Police and Michigan Army National Guard violently suppressed. The Motor City’s first Black woman deputy police chief cites her experiences during that tumultuous summer when explaining why she won’t see "Detroit"—a film about that unrest—to The Huffington Post (HuffPo) on Friday (July 28).

"I haven’t seen the movie. I choose not to," the 86-year-old Jackson says about the movie, which opens in theaters this Friday (August 4). "The riots were a difficult time."

"Detroit" focuses on the Algiers Motel incident during the 1967 Detroit unrest, which Jackson, like many media outlets and commentators, refers to as "riots." Armed with military-caliber weapons, the officers from the above law enforcement agencies fired on and raided a motel room occupied by 10 Black men and boys and two White women, all unarmed. Three Black teens were killed, while the others survived the militarized police’s brutal beatings and interrogations. Three involved White DPD officers were acquitted on murder and conspiracy charges.

Jackson tells HuffPo that she investigated the incident while working in a forensics lab. "The way they brutalized those Black men, I did the forensic work on that," she explains. "There was lots of evidence, but [the department] didn’t want that brought out."

"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," she adds.

Jackson also comments on the racist culture within the department: "[Officers] would come in the laboratory and say, ‘How many n*****s did you kill today? Or beat up today?’"

Some have criticized the film and its White director, Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker"), for omitting Black women from the leading cast and trailer.

"The summer of ’67 in Detroit was one of the most volatile Black rebellions of the 20th century, and the choice to highlight imagery of White women and not women of color will cause more harm than good before the film even hits theaters," LaToya Cross wrote in an Ebony editorial about the trailer. A scan of the movie’s IMDb cast page reveals the names of just four Black actresses, buried in the middle of the list: Samira Wiley ("The Handmaid’s Tale"), Kris Sidberry ("The Forger"), Zurin Villanueva ("Misfits") and newcomer Morgan Rae.