This Detroit Officer Quickly Racked Up Homicides In The “STRESS” Unit

person balancing knife on the top of their finger
Zain Murdock
June 11, 2024

In 1971, the Stop the Robberies, Enjoy Safe Streets (STRESS) unit began terrorizing Detroit. Cop Raymond Peterson became admired and feared as “Mr. STRESS." Because, within just a couple of years, he shot and killed nine people.

STRESS frequently used decoys. Peterson would disguise himself to look like an easy mark for pickpockets so that he could entrap them. One night, he followed a sex worker into an apartment, then shot one of two gay men he saw in bed together. That was the first of many STRESS killings. And in 1973, this case changed everything.

After a sleepy 23-year-old Robert Hoyt accidentally rear-ended him, Peterson shot him dead. Then, he planted a knife at the scene. He failed dismally; investigators found fur matching Peterson’s cat on the knife.

When Peterson stood trial, STRESS officers filled the courtroom to support him. Peterson donned a bulletproof vest. He claimed his reputation as "Mr. STRESS" had made him paranoid about being a target. Ironically, he blamed the system and his training – he had been given a gun and congratulated when he used it. After his acquittal, he celebrated in Mexico. He got $45,728 in back disability payments, and retired on a full pension.

STRESS was quickly disbanded. But the system, and the individuals who bask in its impunity, continue to prove that policing isn’t about safety. It’s about power.