DETROIT — Concerned about the increased potential for violent confrontations and racial profiling, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan in a letter today urged the Michigan State Police to eliminate a policy requiring troopers to make a designated number of traffic stops to meet performance standards.
“Demanding that Michigan State Police troopers pull over a specified minimum number of motorists as part of their performance evaluation gives troopers with a deficient stop record an incentive to pull drivers over when stops are unnecessary,” said ACLU of Michigan Racial Justice Project attorney Mark Fancher, who wrote the letter. “This policy also heightens the risk that motorists who are people of color or who appear to be poor and powerless will be targeted for stops because of presumptions that they won’t complain--and they won’t be believed if they do.
“We are also concerned that during this period of heightened police and community tensions, troopers may stop motorists unnecessarily, and in the process cause irritation or anger that would otherwise not be aroused.”
Addressed to Michigan State Police director Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, the letter strongly criticizes an MSP policy that requires troopers to stop at least 70 percent of the average number of stops recorded by the MSP post to which they are assigned.
The letter points out that, even though the MSP has policies meant to address racial profiling, the intention of these rules can be undermined: “The ACLU of Michigan applauds these measures, but troopers determined to engage in misconduct can distort or misstate facts in reports and they can otherwise ignore departmental policies.”
Noting troopers’ potential for skirting anti-profiling measures, the ACLU letter asks the MSP to outline the specific measures the law-enforcement agency has in place to identify and discourage racial profiling.
“It will be helpful to know whether supervisors who review the troopers’ daily reports routinely determine the racial identities of all persons stopped during each shift,” the letter reads. “It will likewise be helpful to know whether there are guidelines, standards or protocols that supervisors use to reach conclusions about whether there are racial patterns to the stops that warrant special inquiry or investigation. Finally, it will be helpful to know whether there are protocols for addressing patterns of improper stops.”