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Accused three times of domestic violence, Detroit cop remains on the force

Another troubled officer, suspended 10 times, retires amid 7 Investigation
Posted at 10:12 PM, Oct 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 07:04:39-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Kamille Rhodes was supposed to be on her way to a baby shower in July 2017, but instead, she sat at the intersection of 7 Mile and Telegraph, dazed, confused and in pain.

Rhodes had the green light, but still she was struck by another vehicle she never saw coming. Her hip was dislocated, ribs were cracked and spine had been fractured.

Her vehicle, equipped with an automatic crash response, notified her that she had been in an accident and that the police were being called.

“And I remember being like, I am in an accident with the police,” Rhodes said.

The driver of the other vehicle was Detroit police officer Lemuel Sims, who had been chasing another vehicle when he struck Rhodes.

“He said: 'B****, get out of the car…what the f**** are you doing?'” Rhodes recalled.

Even though he was responsible for the accident, she said Sims shouted at her while she sat in her damaged vehicle.

“He was screaming at me, calling me names,” Rhodes said. “I called my sister and was like: I think the police is going to kill me.”

Sims said his lights and siren were on at the time of the crash. Rhodes said that wasn’t true and a witness agreed. She was hospitalized for ten days.

RELATED: Detroit Police scrutinizing sergeant that racked up 93 complaints, 12 lawsuits

The accident would be Officer Sims’ third vehicle crash; the second that was deemed preventable. Rhodes sued the city, who settled the case for $325,000.

Sims punishment: a written reprimand.

“It was for sure a slap in the face!” Rhodes said of the write-up. This changed my whole life, and he didn’t care. He didn’t care, they didn’t care and it’s scary.”

But since he’s became a Detroit police officer, Sims has been accused of far worse than just a slap in the face.

She said, she said, she said

In 2011, Sims was accused of assaulting his then-girlfriend. Internal affairs concluded that Sims “forced entry” through her kitchen window, ransacked her home, and choked her.

The Wayne County prosecutor ultimately charged Sims, but the case was later dismissed when his girlfriend declined to testify. There is no record that Sims was ever punished.

Three years later, Sims was accused of assaulting a different girlfriend. This time, three witnesses said they saw him choke her. Again, the Wayne County Prosecutor charged Sims, and, again, the charges were dismissed when the alleged victim declined to testify.

Sims was suspended for one week.

Then, less than six months later, he would be accused a third time of violence against a woman, with the department concluded that he grabbed and bruised his girlfriend’s arm.

This time, he received a two-week suspension.

“I think most people would be surprised to learn that a cop could be credibly accused by multiple women of physical abuse and he’d still be a cop,” said Channel 7’s Ross Jones in an interview with Chris Graveline, the director of DPD’s professional standards division.

“He’s been identified in our risk assessment as well,” Graveline said, “and we’ll be taking proactive steps.”

RELATED: DPD moved to fire cop hit with 85 complaints, accusations of racist language. Why was he promoted?

DPD officials are now reviewing Sims’ record as part of their new risk management unit, created only after our reporting on officers with significant histories of alleged misconduct.

Since he joined the force in 2009, Sims has received 32 citizen complaints, has been disciplined 17 times and served eight suspensions for a total of 40 days.

He was promoted to detective in May of this year. Reached by phone, Sims declined comment.

“I have no understanding of why this person is still on the job with the issue that we have with this community with dealing with domestic violence,” said Willie Bell, a Detroit Police Commissioner. “This person should not be a Detroit police officer, it’s simple as that.”

RELATED: Troubled DPD Sgt. taken off patrol, interim chief 'deeply disturbed' after 7 Investigation

Sgt. Harold Lewis is still on the force, too, despite 61 citizen complaints and three separates cases where the department concluded he struck a restrained detainee in the head.

DPD confirms his alleged conduct is also under review as part of the department’s new risk management unit.

Reached by phone, Sgt. Lewis said his high citizen complaints came as a result of working in a specialized unit that aggressively pursued guns and drugs.

A ‘proactive’ cop

Since Jason Tonti joined the department in 1996, he’s been hit with 56 complaints. He is among DPD’s most disciplined officers, punished 29 separate times including five times since 2019.

Back in 2009, Tonti was convicted of misdemeanor assault for striking a handcuffed detainee and was suspended for 30 days. The conviction was set aside in 2015.

Tonti has been in 11 police chases and nine crashes, five of which were deemed preventable.

Throughout his career, he has been suspended 10 different times for a total of 77 days.

Just this year, a DPD investigation revealed Tonti violated department policy by having cars towed almost exclusively by two companies he admitted were owned by his friends.

The city’s towing practices are currently under FBI investigation. Tonti said he got nothing in return for the tows and said he chose the companies because they responded quickest.

But a sergeant said his actions demonstrated “his egregious and willfully blatant disregard of the…rules and regulations.” Tonti was suspended for three days.

“That’s really amazing to me,” said Commissioner Bell, “that this person is still on the job.”

At least, he was.

While we were preparing this report, and months after he had been made aware that 7 Action News had requested records related to his discipline, Tonti put in for retirement. He left the department on September 30.

Tonti declined an on-camera interview but, reached by phone, called himself a “proactive” cop and said that’s why he’s received so many complaints.

He said the streets have become more dangerous recently, and that’s why he chose to retire. But he also acknowledged making mistakes.

“A lot of those complaints are frivolous, but a lot of them are truthful too,” Tonti said.

“I’ve done a lot of things I shouldn’t have done in the department.”

This story was reported by Ross Jones. Photographers Ramon Rosario and Johnny Sartin Maren Machles contributed to the

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466. Maren Machles contributed to the data analysis in this report.