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The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, in a letter sent today, urged the Michigan State Police to do a comprehensive review of whether black and Latino motorists are pulled over by a special MSP security team, while traveling along Interstate 94, at a rate significantly higher than white motorists.
After receiving multiple complaints from drivers regarding possible racial profiling along I-94, the ACLU of Michigan requested records from MSP related to stops made by the Fifth District Hometown Security Team on several days during part of 2017.
“These records alone do not prove racial profiling, but certainly raise concerns and warrant a thorough and complete investigation of MSP traffic stops,” said Mark Fancher, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan.
The records that the MSP produced show that from Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, through Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, one of the troopers made stops that brought him into contact with 15 individuals who were either drivers or passengers. Seven of these 15 individuals were identified as black, and four were identified as Hispanic. The race of one driver was not identified. The three remaining individuals were identified as white. The encounter with one of the white drivers was apparently not because of actual or suspected violations of the law, but for the purpose of providing assistance with the driver’s vehicle.
The ACLU of Michigan then requested records of stops made by other members of the Fifth District Hometown Security Team on six randomly selected Fridays during the first quarter of 2017. The records produced by MSP show that on those days, four of the more active members of that unit made stops that brought them into contact with 82 individuals who were either drivers or passengers. Almost 48 percent of these individuals were identified by the troopers as black, Hispanic or Asian. About 24 percent of these individuals were identified as white. Another 28 percent were reported to be of unknown racial identity.
When the ACLU of Michigan raised similar concerns about a year ago, MSP admitted that they had no way of tracking the race of motorists pulled over. That resulted in a new policy of mandatory reporting of racial identities. Now that there is data that can be fully analyzed to identify any patterns that may exist, the ACLU has asked MSP to do an agency-wide investigation of traffic stops and to share its findings with the public.
"We hope MSP will heed our call for an internal probe, but even if they don't, we're not finished with our own investigation," said Fancher. "We have asked MSP for more records of traffic stops, and we are interested in what they will reveal. These records alone do not prove racial profiling, but certainly raise concerns and warrant a thorough and complete investigation of MSP traffice stops."