Mar 8, 2024 - News

Detroit gang violence police told to remove "Blackbeard" patches

The Detroit police officer wearing the "Blackbeard" patch identified himself as part of the department's ceasefire unit.

The Detroit police officer wearing the "Blackbeard" patch identified himself as part of the department's ceasefire unit. Photos: Samuel Robinson/Axios

Sam here. These Blackbeard patches worn by Detroit police officers caught my attention while I was getting a burrito at El Taquito Taco Truck in Southwest a few weeks ago.

  • The officers told me they were Detroit Police Department officers with the "ceasefire unit."
  • When I asked DPD spokesperson Sgt. Jordan Hall about the patches, he couldn't identify if they were Detroit officers but said the type of patch being worn was not authorized by the department.

Why it matters: Chief James White, the former chair of Michigan's Civil Rights Commission, has led the department with a greater focus on civil rights since assuming the position from former Chief James Craig.

  • In his role as Detroit's top cop, Craig aligned himself with conservative causes before becoming a failed Republican gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidate.

Zoom in: The patch depicts a skeletal figure holding an automatic rifle and a spear, striking an obvious resemblance to the "Blackbeard flag."

Blackbeard patch worn by a DPD officer waiting for lunch in Southwest Detroit on Feb. 6.
The Blackbeard patch worn by a DPD officer waiting for lunch in Southwest Detroit on Feb. 6.

Catch up quick: About a month after I asked about the patches, Hall told me the officers, who are part of the ceasefire unit in the 9th Precinct, were forced to remove the patch after an investigation had been closed.

  • They also received counsel about wearing unauthorized insignias or symbols not approved by the department.

Between the lines: Ceasefire units exist within each precinct, Hall tells Axios.

  • "They're violence interrupters; sometimes they go to people who have been incarcerated before and try to prevent things from happening. Had you not brought it up they still might be wearing it. When I escalated this to the assistant chief's level, they were not happy about it."
  • "As much as we respect our special forces in the military — a lot of our members still serve in the military — that patch was never adopted by DPD."
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