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State suspends ‘Greektown punch’ officer who avoided firing by joining Eastpointe PD

State action could end Officer Kairy Robert's law enforcement career
Kairy Roberts suspended
Posted at 2:32 PM, Sep 21, 2023

LANSING (WXYZ) — The state agency that licenses police officers in Michigan has suspended an officer who avoided firing in Detroit by joining another police agency.

Officer Kairy Roberts faced termination with DPD following a viral punch in 2021. Roberts was accused of striking a citizen in the face who posed no threat, failing to render aid and later lying to investigators.

Before Detroit police could take action against Roberts, he resigned and joined Eastpointe police. He has worked there for the last year.

RELATED: A Detroit cop faced firing for Greektown punch—until Eastpointe gave him a badge

A Detroit cop faced firing for Greektown punch—until Eastpointe gave him a badge

“Summary suspensions are issued to protect the citizens,” said Tim Bourgeois, the executive director of the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES). “There’s somebody there that—on the face of it—doesn’t meet the standards.”

Roberts’ suspension is a direct result of a 7 Action News investigation, revealing to state officials in May how he skirted discipline in one department by finding a new badge down the road.

The emergency suspension was formally issued last week.

CONTINUING COVERAGE: Conduct Unbecoming: Detroit’s Troubled Officers

In the summer of 2021, Roberts and scores of other officers came to the city’s Greektown neighborhood trying to disperse a large crowd.

As the crowd grew restless, Roberts was recorded on cell phone video knocking unconscious a man who DPD later said posed no threat.

Roberts would later say he punched Marcus Alston because he had just struck another officer. Department video did not support his claim.

Roberts was accused of improper force, giving false statements and neglect of duty.

“Any one of those things would be concerning,” Bourgeois said. “In their combination, they are even more concerning.”

While the investigation into Roberts’ conduct in Detroit continued, he resigned in September 2022 and joined Eastpointe police days later.

The chief in Eastpointe who hired Roberts—George Rouhib—left the department shortly WXYZ’s original reportto become the chief in Rochester.

His replacement, Corey Haines, tells 7 Action News that Roberts is now on administrative duty. He will await an emergency hearing, but ultimately MCOLES will decide if he’ll remain licensed as an officer.

A message left for Roberts at Eastpointe Police was not returned.

A review of public records surrounding Roberts' resignation in Detroit and hiring in Eastpointe reveals that both departments dropped the ball.

First, when Roberts resigned from DPD, the department should have reported to MCOLES that he “resigned while under investigation.”

That would have alerted the state that there was a problem surrounding his departure. Instead, Detroit police incorrectly reported that Roberts left “in good standing.”

DPD says that was a mistake.

Meanwhile, Eastpointe had reason to question Roberts’ exit from Detroit.

7 Action News has learned that the city paid for a background check that revealed Roberts was still under investigation for the punch. Eastpointe officials were aware of the video, too, but hired him anyway.

In the end, the state says Eastpointe failed to follow a 2017 law that required the department to obtain a written explanation for why Roberts was leaving Detroit.

The state is using that failure to challenge Roberts’ license.

“In the end, if you hire people that don’t meet the standards, that does not solve your staffing problem,” Bourgeois said. “That just creates more problems.”

Attorney General Dana Nessel says the Roberts case is evidence that the law needs to change.

“What we’ve seen is departments are willing to take virtually anyone who has their MCOLES license, irrespective of what their conduct has been at previous police departments,” she told Channel 7's Ross Jones.

Because of staffing challenges, Nessel says the temptation to take cops with checkered pasts has never been greater. She wants to give MCOLES more power to take an officer’s badge.

“We shouldn’t be counting on individual police departments who are already very short-staffed,” Nessel said, “to make the decision as to whether or not they’re going to reprimand vs. suspend vs. terminate a police officer who they might really badly need to be on the force.”

Instead, Nessel says that MCOLES—in addition to local police departments—should have the power to take an officer’s license. Right now, the agency can only step in while an officer is in between jobs.

“I’ve spoken to the attorney general about the plan and I understand the general concept,” Bourgeois said. “As always, the difficulty, the devil is always in the details as to how that occurs”

Changing the law would mean committing significantly more dollars and resources to MCOLES. Previous attempts to change the law have already failed.

Nessel says now that Democrats are in control of the legislature, there’s a better chance for change.

In Eastpointe, residents like Karen Mouradjian are relieved to hear that Officer Roberts has been taken off the street.

But she says there’s only a happy ending to this story if other departments learn not to follow her city's lead.

“You need to thoroughly vet these officers,” she said. “Otherwise, somewhere down the line, it’s going to come out.”

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.