Ex-Detective Says He Was Fired for Investigating Abusive Priest, SNAP Calls for AG Review

A Michigan detective is alleging that he was fired from his job for investigating sexual abuse allegations against a local priest. We applaud this detective for his role in prosecuting the priest in question and hope that Michigan’s attorney general is paying attention to this case and will review whether Catholic officials had any undue influence on this detective’s job.

According to a recently filed lawsuit, former detective Brian Berg was investigating the case of Robert Deland, a priest from the Diocese of Saginaw who was convicted in 2019 of three charges related to sexual abuse and sentenced to up to 15 years in prison. Detective Berg’s complaint charges that he was impeded in his investigation by both Tittabawassee Township and Police Department officials. If true, this represents a serious concern for victims of sexual abuse in Michigan.

If survivors cannot trust the police to believe them and investigate their claims, where can they turn? For many years, there have been cases of Catholic officials having undue influence over the actions of law enforcement, such as when a Pennsylvania District Attorney halted an investigation into child sexual abuse allegations against Fr. Ernest Paone or when the Alameda County District Attorney allowed Msgr. Vincent Breen to escape without charges when they had determined he had abused at least eight young girls.

We are grateful that because of Detective Berg the DeLand case did not fall by the wayside, as happened with Fr. Paone and Msgr. Breen. But the situation is still disturbing and concerning enough to warrant intervention from the state’s top law enforcement official. We hope that A.G. Dana Nessel will look into the situation in Tittabawassee Township to ensure that no other crimes were quietly pushed under the rug.

In order to protect children and prevent the scourge of sexual abuse, witnesses, victims, and whistle-blowers need to be able to trust police. We hope that Detective Berg’s example will encourage others who may have been silenced to come forward and tell their story. We also hope that this case will be looked at closely by the attorney general’s office.         

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected])

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

SNAP Network is a GuideStar Gold Participant