Ingham County no longer pursuing criminal charges for people pulled over in non-public-safety stops

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 7:46 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Ingham county prosecutors want to prevent racially biased traffic stops by giving less incentive for them to happen in the first place.

They are no longer pursuing criminal charges against people pulled over in what are known as “non-public-safety” traffic stops. The Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office is only the second in Michigan to adopt this policy.

Prosecutors told News 10 that reducing traffic stops for things like having a taillight out or expired license plates will help bring about racial equality.

Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon said, “It’s a national issue. It’s a huge issue. So, I’ve been thinking about it for a long time.”

Non-public safety stops are when a person is pulled over for small offenses. Critics say police use them as fishing expeditions to look for evidence of a crime. Research shows people of color are more likely to be pulled over like this than white drivers.

Siemon said, “What we don’t want is implicit or explicit harassment of individuals because of the color of their skin or economic system.”

Siemon believes that bringing charges based on evidence found during a non-public safety stop encourages police officers to focus on people rather than actions they deem suspicious. She admits she can’t tell police to not make these stops but they hope her office’s stance makes a difference.

“By reducing those kinds of contacts, you’re reducing the racial disparity and the likelihood of there being an injury or a death,” Siemon said. “And that’s for the officer as well as the community member, because there often are very dangerous situations for officers as well.”

Black Student Alliance at MSU calls this is a good first step, but believes police need to take a more transparent approach with the community.

Joshua Dorcely is a member of MSU’s Black Student Alliance.

“I think it is a well-documented issue that a lot of these stops are racially prejudiced,” Dorcely said. “This is a big reason why we’re connecting with the police ourselves. Because, we need to move from a more traditional police department to a more communicative, more community-based police department, where our residents feel like they trust the police...”

Siemon says this is also a safety issue for police. She hopes reducing the number of traffic stops will also reduce the number of potentially violent situations officers find themselves in.

The new policy goes into effect today and will continue indefinitely. It will only impact traffic stops in Ingham County.

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