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'A slap in the face': Police take issue with Ingham County prosecutor's policy on traffic stops

Posted at 7:50 PM, Jul 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-28 19:50:00-04

LANSING, Mich. — Police officers spoke out Wednesday against a new policy that the Ingham County prosecutor says is meant to reduce racial bias in policing.

Carol Siemon announced Tuesday that her office will no longer charge drivers who are pulled over for reasons that aren't related to public safety.

Representatives from local police agencies said Wednesday that could be dangerous.

"This policy is nothing more than a slap in the face to the men and women in this county that put the uniform on every day to serve the citizens of Ingham County and do it proudly, and do it justly, and honorably," said Matt Saxton, executive director of the Michigan Sheriff's Association, at a press conference held by Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wrigglesworth.

Saxton said the state has seen an increase in traffic fatalities due to lack of traffic enforcement.

"So if we continue to ignore traffic violations, we not only create more victims, but more crimes and more deaths in the state of Michigan," he said. "This, policy has nothing to do with public safety, but more so for supporting suspects."

Siemon said data shows that stops for minor traffic offenses or equipment problems disproportionately target minority drivers. Her new policy is meant to reduce systematic racial bias in law enforcement.

“I have to try and say, 'Where are the areas where I can impact?' And that involves low level non-public safety stops,” she said. “A lot of times these lead to injury or seizure of contraband against Black or brown people...and that’s where I feel I can make the biggest impact.”

Wrigglesworth questioned Siemon's decision, asking how it makes our communities safer.

He added that he doesn't want to fill the jail, but there need to be consequences.

"If we didn't stop people for non-public-safety traffic offenses, you don't know what you don't know until you stop the car legally and lawfully and see what's going on," Wrigglesworth said.

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