Gary Steele, formerly a Detroit police corporal, was demoted and is under investigation after a Snapchat video surfaced that allegedly shows him mocking a black woman who was walking home in the frigid temperatures.
You can watch the video later in this article. Steele had pulled over the woman, Ariel Moore, 23, for having an expired license plate, according to Detroit’s Police Chief James Craig. “I am troubled because of what happened after,” said the police chief, who added that Steele was demoted from the position of corporal and reassigned. An internal investigation was launched.
“When these kinds of things happen it does tend to erode the trust,” Craig said in a press conference.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Gary Steele Is Accused of Using the Phrase ‘Black Girl Magic’ With the Snap
According to Daily Beast, Steele is accused of driving alongside Moore, “posting videos to his Snapchat with racial taunts like ‘What black girl magic looks like,’ and ‘celebrating Black History Month.'”
The chief said the woman was walking in a cold, dark night. He said that situation could have placed her in harm’s way, although Craig added that the investigators learned from the officer’s body camera that there was an offer made to “escort her home.” She rejected that, he said. Still, said Chief Craig, officers have an obligation “to make sure she gets safely home,” adding that Moore lived about a block away.
2. The Police Chief Says He’s Angry & Described the Snapchat Post as ‘Racially Insensitive’
Detroit Police Chief Craig thanked the media for “bringing this troubling story to our attention. When these things happen, we prefer that we discover it.”
He said, “I’m angry..I’m angry because this was a racially insensitive post…It was one of our colder days in Detroit.” The chief said that the woman was not happy about being stopped. “Who would be happy on one of the colder winter nights being stopped?” Craig said.
“The officer makes the bad decision to make a Snapchat post,” said the chief. He said “it has ‘Bye Felicia.’ And that’s derogatory, and that’s not what we expect of our police officers.”
“This investigation will be fair,” he said. “Not acceptable….I am angry.” He added: “To make the reference to Black History Month is even more problematic…This officer will be accountable for his actions.”
3. Gary Steele Has Been a Detroit Police Officer for Almost Two Decades
On LinkedIn, Gary Steele writes that he has been a police officer in the City of Detroit for 18 years. His page says he started working for the force in August 2000 and was assigned to the “Special Operations Section.”
Connections endorsed him on LinkedIn for public safety, police, and law enforcement. Some sites have given his name as Gary Steel, but he uses Steele on LinkedIn.
The police chief confirmed in the news conference that the officer had been on the force for 18.5 years, and he described Gary Steele as a “tenured employee” who “knows better” and “trains new officers.” His partner that night is also part of the investigation, said Craig.
4. Steele Was Previously Accused in a Domestic Altercation
Gary Steele has been in trouble with the law before, according to WXYZ. “He has a troubling history,” said the chief, in the news conference. “…I will tell you there would have been a different outcome if I’d been chief during those years…after reviewing his history…there’s a pattern. And I’m concerned about that pattern.”
The Detroit television station reports that he was previously charged with allegedly “physically attacking his ex-girlfriend and firing a gun next to her head back in 2008.”
According to WXYZ, Steele ultimately agreed to a “misdemeanor plea deal for probation and staying on the force.”
5. The Officer Was Recently Honored for His Service
You can see a photo of Gary Steele here from when he was honored for his service by the Detroit Public Safety Foundation.
The police chief says he called Ariel Moore’s mother after the incident was first reported. “Not acceptable,” he repeated. He said he apologized to the mother and that the towing fees were being waived. “We are going to pay for the towing fees,” Craig said.
Steele was named a corporal in 2017.
In September 2018, Chief Craig fired an officer, Sean Bostwick, who was accused of writing on Snapchat, “Another night to Rangel (sic) up these zoo animals.”