Beating and then taking a bribe from a man facing trial.
Scheming to protect and deliver what they thought was cocaine.
Even agreeing in principle to kill someone for $20,000.
The allegations unsealed Friday in a criminal complaint against four Highland Park police officers reads like a script for a movie about dirty cops. Although only one — Anthony Bynum — is accused of agreeing to perform a contract killing, all are alleged to have taken money to transport what they thought was cocaine.
During a news conference Friday, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade sought to assure the public that all those involved in the alleged scheme have been arrested.
“This misconduct in this case is limited to the four officers charged,” she said.
She also put other officers in the region on notice.
“Police officers who take bribes and participate in criminal activities will be discovered and prosecuted,” she said in a statement. Officials also indicated that the multi-agency Public Corruption Task Force involved in the arrests would be presenting more cases in the future.
McQuade credited Highland Park Police Chief Kevin Coney with initiating the federal investigation. Even before the current allegations, Coney was looking into the conduct of the officers, she said. The criminal complaint references three instances between May and July in which residents filed written statements saying they had been beaten or had items stolen from them by Officers Bynum and Price Montgomery together, or by Bynum alone.
The four officers — Bynum, 29, Montgomery, 38, Shawn Williams, 33, and Craig Clayton, 55 — face charges including bribery, conspiring to distribute 6 kilograms of cocaine and carrying firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime. Bynum, Montgomery and Clayton are all of Highland Park; Williams is from Detroit.
The federal investigation began after Bynum and Montgomery arrested a man on a firearms charge in August. The complaint says the officers beat the man, who was not named, and stole $1,700 in cash and a gold ring from him. The complaint says the man, who eventually began working with the FBI as an informant, agreed to pay the two officers $10,000 in exchange for failing to appear for his trial, which led to the dismissal of the case.
The complaint says that Bynum and Montgomery then offered to help the man in his drug dealing. It notes that they claimed to know of “a drug trafficker who uses women to transport drugs from California to Michigan.”
As the law enforcement sting developed, Bynum and Montgomery eventually persuaded Williams and Clayton — both auxiliary Highland Park officers — to participate in one of two deliveries involving the transport of what turned out to be “sham cocaine” from the Chili’s parking lot at Oakland Mall in Troy to a Meijer parking lot in Taylor in November and January, the complaint says.
Bynum’s mother asked for prayers for her son following his initial appearance in federal court in Detroit on Friday afternoon.
“My son is a good boy. He is a good officer,” said Annie Bynum, 65, of Detroit. “I can’t even believe this is happening.”
Bynum’s mother said her son has two sons of his own, a 10-year-old and a 7-month-old. Bynum also is an officer for Detroit Public Schools, and his mother said he has been a pastor at two churches in Detroit and Highland Park.
During the hearing, Magistrate Judge Laurie J. Michelson set bail for all four at $10,000 in unsecured bond. Michelson also ordered Bynum to wear a tether and be subject to a curfew because federal authorities said he is a flight risk and noted that he is accused of various violent incidents.
All four were ordered not to have contact with one another unless their attorneys are present, or with any witnesses, victims or members of Highland Park police, except to retrieve property. Their travel is restricted to eastern Michigan.
Preliminary examinations were set for Feb. 15.
The men sat side by side with their legs shackled as they waited to be called before Michelson, who appointed federal defense attorneys to represent them. Bynum wiped his eyes several times as he waited his turn. All four spoke in one- or two-word answers as Michelson addressed them.