Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans was forced to resign Wednesday, the same day that a local news station aired a slick six-minute video Evans made to pitch a reality TV show called The Chief, starring himself. Evans’ ouster, and the public release of the video, ends a weeks-long story that began in tragedy but culminated in something closer to farce.
The tragedy occurred on May 16, when a Detroit police officer shot and killed 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones during a raid, while being accompanied by cameras filming The First 48, another police reality show, which airs on the A&E Network. After the incident, Mayor Dave Bing canceled a deal with The First 48 that allowed the show to tag along on raids (a deal Evans had signed — though the original contract with the show apparently predates both Bing’s and Evans’ tenures), and told the News at the time that he would have Deputy Mayor Saul Green “reining” Evans in.
On May 20, the News’ Charlie LeDuff reported on the existence of a promo tape for The Chief, which he said he had been shown weeks before. On May 25, Bing told the News he had also seen the tape prior to the raid.
The promo is a ridiculous exercise in ego. It features shots of Evans toting a rifle in front of the old Michigan Central Station, strutting down a city street like Gary Cooper in High Noon, breaking down doors, jawing with suspects, leading meetings and generally kicking ass and taking names. “My name is Warren Evans, chief of police of the city of Detroit,” he says at the start. Cue pulsing soundtrack, shots of Evans on the job, sounds of gunfire. “It’s my job to keep the city safe. I’ll do whatever it takes.”
The video’s soundtrack even includes a riff that sounds suspiciously like the hit “Lose Yourself” by that other self-aggrandizing Detroit icon, Eminem.
“We saw it and we said: ‘Hell no — don’t make that public. You’ve got to cancel that; that’s not going to happen,’” Bing told the News back in May. “But the teaser thing was already out, so it’s public knowledge. And it’s not positive in my opinion.”
The tape itself wasn’t made public until Wednesday, when WXYZ obtained a copy. By the time of the scheduled airing on the 11 p.m. news, Evans was out as Detroit’s police chief.
According to reports, Evans took to his Faceboook page to respond to his firing. “I don’t get the big fuss!” Evans posted, according to the News. “It’s a producer’s product. If the City doesn’t like it there won’t be a series Period! Does someone want to believe the streets aren’t like that? LOL”
“There were certain events that happened, certain decisions that were made over a period of time that led us to this decision,” Bing originally told The Detroit News regarding Evan’s ouster. But yesterday, Bing — who had actually vied with Evan’s in last year’s mayoral race — acknowledged that the promo video for The Chief was a factor in his decision, along with controversy surrounding The First 48, plus Evans’ relationship with a subordinate officer, Lt. Monique Russell-Patterson — who he’s publicly been dating for some time.
Watch the promo. It’s truly must-see stuff.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com