Study finds 'consistent evidence' of racial disparities in Michigan State Police traffic stops

Michigan State Police
Posted at 7:10 PM, Jan 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 22:31:58-05

LANSING, Mich. — A study released today by the Michigan State Police found that state troopers were far more likely to pull over Black drivers than drivers of all other races.

“We found that African American drivers were more likely to be stopped than we would have expected based on the representation in the population across Michigan. Hispanic and Asian, on the other hand, were significantly less likely to be stopped by MSP troopers than we would expect,” said Scott Wolfe, lead author of the study and associate professor is MSU's Department of Criminal Justice.

The state police commissioned the study about traffic stops in 2020. It found “clear and consistent evidence that racial and ethnic disparities exist in Michigan State Police traffic stops,” said Colonel Joe Gasper, director of the Michigan State Police.

“We are in a current moment that calls for every law enforcement agency in this country to take a hard look at internal and external standards for policing,” said Gasper in a press conference this afternoon.

Wolfe said the study also analyzed traffic crash data to better determine the actual driving population.

“Here again, we found that African American drivers were more likely to be stopped than we would have expected based on their involvement in not at fault crashes across the state,” Wolfe said.

In a separate analysis using driver population data drawn from at-fault crashes, they found that Black drivers were more likely to be stopped in state police districts 1,2,3 and 5, which cover the southern and eastern parts of the state. District one includes Clinton, Ingham, and Eaton County. They could not find evidence of the same effect in northern Michigan.

“We found that traffic stops conducted during the daylight were more likely to involve an African American driver than those conducted at night,” Wolfe said.

Their studies further showed that Black and Hispanic drivers were significantly more likely to be searched and to be arrested than white drivers.

The state police are proposing a five-point plan. The agency will hire an independent expert to review its policies and make recommendations for systemic changes that will address racial disparities. It will launch a statewide listening and engagement effort to have open and honest conversations with communities of color. Further, police officials want to make data available to state troopers that will provide real-time traffic stop data so they can learn and adjust their actions. It will offer educational opportunities for troopers and recruits and, finally, plans to issue body-worn cameras to all officers who could have enforcement contact with the public.

Gasper said, they currently have 250 body cams deployed throughout the state and that they anticipate deploying about 1600 through the end of the year.

“The body worn camera is a valuable tool for increasing the accountability of the officer,” Gasper said.

The president of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, Wendell Anthony, said in a statement that the study is revealing but not surprising.

“Prior to COVID-19 on any Monday in court rooms across Michigan related to traffic citations and arrests, they were often filled with African Americans and people of color,” Anthony said. “The state police are correct in publicly announcing their internal issue that has created an external crisis for much too long."

The complete findings of the study are published here.

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