Teen arrested at Blake Transit Center

Thursday, September 28, 2017 - 8:50pm

Family seeking an apology after a 16-year-old Black boy was arrested at the Blake Transit Center Tuesday night. The incident was first reported in a press release from the Collective Against White Supremacy.

The press release detailed an incident where Ciaeem Slaton, a student at Pathways to Success Academic Campus in Ann Arbor, was reportedly confronted by an Ann Arbor Police Department officer while waiting for a bus. The officer, who is also Black, demanded to see Slaton and his friends’ school ID cards, though they had not received their physical IDs from the school yet. After the initial encounter, the officer reportedly dragged Slaton by his backpack into the station.

An accompanying video shows Slaton being arrested while other teens tell Slaton to comply with the arrest.

“The officer drew his taser which appears to be pointed at Slaton,” the press release read. “After the video, Ciaeem was given a ‘trespass’ charge, which means he is not allowed to use the Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti busses or be at the bus station for an entire year.”

Slaton was released from police custody while still at the bus station.

The Slaton family is asking for an apology from AAPD and the officer in question for the arrest. They are also asking for compensation for Slaton’s reported physical injuries and for his charges to be dropped. According to the release, Slaton needs to use the bus system to get to school — as a result, the Slaton family sees the trespass charge as unfair to his education.

According to MLive, Jim Baird, the Ann Arbor Police Chief, wrote an email to Ann Arbor City Council and explained the video footage took place before the arrival of additional police officers.

"Any use of force by Ann Arbor Police Department personnel receives a review at three levels in the organization," he wrote. "In addition, because some of the inquiries I received could be characterized as complaints, a personnel complaint has been initiated and will be investigated by our professional standards section."

Anna Lemler, a University alum and organizer with Collective Against White Supremacy, said CAWS has reached out to Slaton's mother for support; they have offered to help with grocery shopping, contacting media outlets and raising funds for legal costs.  

Lemler said there were officers stationed in the area surrounding the Transit Center to respond to a fight that happened earlier. Lemler said she thinks that is why there was a larger police presence, though she believes there are usually one or two AAPD cops stationed there that are hired by the Transit Center.

"It sounds like there was some high energy because of that fight and so he got there for a different reason, to take the bus home, and the cop said, 'You need to leave,'" she said. "So he started to walk away from the crowd and the cop came up and approached him again, and that's when he asked for his ID."

Lemler said it is her understanding that because Slaton was asked to leave, he was charged with trespassing.

"I didn't understand how he's trespassing as a resident of Ann Arbor in a public bus station, waiting for a bus to go home, but it's because the officer had said that he needed to go, that because he didn't (leave) quick enough or something, that's what the trespass charge is," she said.

She explained because Slaton didn't have his ID, the officer did not know that he was a minor.

"Even though he's a Black cop, he is still an individual that, by his profession, is trained in policies and practices that are institutionally racist and target youths of color," she said. "Even though he's Black, doesn't mean this isn't a part of institutional racism. These young people at the Transit Center are harassed all the time by cops and by security there so this is a repeated issue ... Ann Arbor is full of white liberalism, and I am white, and I think many white folks in particular want to believe that racism doesn't exist here, but it definitely does."

Protests against police brutality have been prevalent in Ann Arbor since the 2014 shooting of Aura Rosser. Rosser, a Black woman with a mental illness, was killed by an Ann Arbor police officer.

Lamler said community members at the time had three demands: first, an apology from AAPD; second, to fire the police officer that killed Rosser; and third, to create a community oversight board of the AAPD. She noted City Council hired a private Chicago-based firm of ex-cops to assess whether or not police brutality exists in Ann Arbor and if there should be an oversight board. She explained the firm primarily did their research through an online questionnaire that consisted of 55 questions in English and was only accessible online; she said they did insufficient community outreach.

"The guess from many organizers, not just CAWS, but elder activists who have been following policing ever since they were born here in Ann Arbor, is that a national trend is that police oversight boards will exist but that they have no teeth, because there is still corruption in policing, and so sometimes those oversight boards will be appointed by the mayor or by the police chief," she said. 

The hashtag #Justice4CiaeemSlaton has recently been trending in response to the video and press release.

The Ann Arbor Police Department was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

This article was updated to include comments from Jim Baird and Anna Lemler.