Interview with John Nichols

Can I just ask you to tell me, how did you think that, what was the situation? Were things going well?


Yes, things were going well. We had had a visit, just a couple of weeks before the riot, from Dr. Martin Luther King who met with city officials and who indicated that he thought Detroit was a, was a most progressive city. In the, ah, areas where they had mixed racial populations, we were heavily into a program of block clubs which put the police and the citizens into direct relationship with each other. We had had an experience the year before on the Kercheval incident which was a, the classical kind of a thing that, Ah, a scout car made an arrest, ah, there was a fight and people come charging out of the houses. But at that particular time it was an afternoon shift, the department was at maximum strength, we had just relieved 50 fully equipped police officers from a disturbance, a demonstration in the 1st Precinct, so automatically we saturated the area with police, the neighborhood watch groups responded, they moved out, dispersed the crowds, and there was a minimal amount of damage and we figured that, ah, that the system that we had and the modifications that we had made would serve us well. What we didn't figure was that, ah, what a young policeman told me on 12th Street the morning of the riot was true, that the rioters mobilized faster than the police did.