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Michigan State Police discuss disparities in traffic stops

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 11:49 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WNDU) - Michigan State Police officers are raising the bar when it comes to policing.

The agency held a virtual press conference Wednesday afternoon to talk about a 2020 independent study regarding traffic stops.

The study was conducted by researchers at the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University.

The purpose of the study was to see if racial and ethnic disparities existed.

Report findings showed troopers disproportionally pulled over African Americans, especially during the day.

“And so we started by benchmarking MSP traffic stops against Census estimates. Here we found African American drivers were more likely to be stopped then we would have expected based on their representation in the population across Michigan. Hispanic and Asian drivers, on the other hand, were significantly less likely to be stopped by MSP troopers then we would have expected,” said Dr. Scott Wolfe, with MSU School of Criminal Justice.

The report also found that African Americans and Hispanics were more likely than Whites to be arrested after traffic stops.

“It’s really important, imperative, to understand the difference between disparity and discrimination. Disparity is an observed difference in the proportion of traffic stops involving a specific group of people, compared to that groups representation in another source of data.  Discrimination, on the other hand, involves a police officer intentionally targeting and stopping a racial and ethnic minority driver,” said Wolfe.

Michigan leaders applauded MSP for its transparency.

“Michiganders deserve unbiased policing, transparency and accountably from their state police and that is what they are going to get,” said Col. Joe Gasper, Director with Michigan State Police.

MSP made clear that this report “is not a commentary on the integrity of individual troopers, who are steadfastly committed to serving everyone with dignity and respect.”

The agency is now developing a five-point plan to address the issue; and will make data more available from an internal dashboard.

“As part of that plan, we will hire an independent expert to review MSP policies and recommend systematic changes. We will also equip all troopers with body cameras, integrate cultural awareness training...and launch statewide listening and learning engagements with leaders from communities of color,” said Gasper.

MSP also said law enforcement agencies across the country need to take a “hard look at internal and external standards for policing.”

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