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Why Detroit’s First Black Female Deputy Police Chief, Now 86, Says She Won’t Be Seeing Detroit

Police evacuate apartment building in search of sniper suspects, during Detroit’s 1967 riots. (Lee Balterman/The LIFE Pictures)

Surprise! Yet another black person eschews black death porn on screen. This time it isMary Jarrett Jackson, the first woman to serve as deputy police chief in Detroit, the city for which the new film in theaters is named.  

“I haven’t seen the movie. I choose not to,” Jackson, 86, told HuffPost. “The riots were a difficult time.”

Mary Jarrett Jackson

The “12th Street Riots,” the “Uprising of 1967” or the “Detroit Rebellion of 1967” saw brutal death and carnage of black bodies, and the film by director Kathryn Bigelow, Detroit, chronicles the events that led to the shooting deaths of three black men at the Algiers Motel during that time.



Jackson was assigned to the Algiers Motel case that summer and actually saw the bodies of 17-year-old Carl Cooper, 19-year-old Aubrey Pollard and 18-year-old Fred Temple, the three teens killed that horrifying night on Woodward Avenue in Detroit’s Virginia Park neighborhood.

“During the riots, I was still in the labs. I investigated cases that arose, like the Algiers Motel case,” said Jackson, who also served as the former Detroit police crime lab chief. “The way they brutalized those black men, I did the forensic work on that. There was lots of evidence, but they didn’t want that brought out.”

“I don’t want to necessarily revisit that,” she added.


Jackson joined the Detroit Police Department in 1958. She was approaching 10 years with the predominately white police force when the civil unrest began on July 23, 1967. Jackson faced virulent racism (and most likely sexism as well) but stayed the course.

″We didn’t have that many black police officers at the time . . . I know they made fun of me,” she notes. “They would come in the laboratory and say, ‘How many niggers did you kill today? Or beat up today?’”


Ironically, it was white police officers who brutally beat and tortured seven black men and two white women at the Algiers Motel in the summer of 1967.

“There were some white girls there, with the young men. They were willingly there. That upset the police,” Jackson said. “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.”

“When I went out there to do the lab work, it was awful to look at those kids beaten as they were, shot in the head,” she said of the three teens killed. “It should have been prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

And so, like many African Americans who have witnessed, experienced or are forced to watch the extrajudicial murder and violence against black bodies—real and imagined—Jackson chooses not to participate.



Read more at the Huffington Post.

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