Larry Oliver, police chief of the Detroit Police Department since February 2002, stepped down from his position after an undeclared, unregistered loaded handgun was found in his checked luggage at the airport. He was on his way to the IACP Chiefs conference in Philadelphia.
After Oliver resigned last Friday over the Oct. 18 incident and Ella Bully-Cummings was named interim chief Monday, many Detroit police officers celebrated. It was no secret that no love was lost between the rank-and-file and Detroit’s top cop. He created a policy of strict discipline on the department, which included sometimes discharging officers for misdemeanors. Oliver was charged with a misdemeanor Monday for possession of an unlicensed handgun.
Bully-Cummings, who is slated to officially become the first female police chief in Detroit, says she has no intention of changing the policies that Oliver established during his tenure. The department is under two court-mandated consent decrees to reform its lethal-force policies and prisoner treatment, and the interim chief plans to meet all requirements to end the federal oversight the department is under.
Despite Bully-Cummings assertion that she won’t be any easier on the department than Oliver, many officers are glad to see the former chief gone, nonetheless.
Oliver had purchased the gun found in his luggage in 1973 in Phoenix, where he started his police career. He never registered the gun with the state of Michigan, as is required by law.
Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan, who issued the misdemeanor charge on Monday, says he doesn’t know if Oliver could have stayed on as chief after this incident.
“When a department is at war with itself, it’s difficult for them to protect anybody else,” says Duggan. “I think, in the last six months, there were definitely signs of serious problems.”