Michigan State Police report finds racial disparities in law enforcement; leadership lays out plan for change

Michigan State Police report finds racial disparities in law enforcement; leadership lays out plan for change
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 5:36 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Michigan State Police (MSP) have concluded a year-long study that found there are racial disparities in the frequency and outcomes of traffic stops conducted by troopers.

Update: Michigan State Police pledge change after study finds racial disparities in traffic stops

In Sept. 2020, MSP internal data analysis revealed potential racial disparities. Leadership then commissioned an independent study by Michigan State University that charted multiple aspects of law enforcement, including elements like how easy it was at the time of a traffic stop to see who was driving. The study found that across Michigan, and within most of the MSP’s districts, African Americans were notably more likely to be involved in a traffic stop than would be expected based on their representation in the population.

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The report also found that African American drivers and Hispanic drivers were more likely than white drivers to be searched or arrested after traffic stops. Conversely, Asian drivers were significantly less likely to be searched or arrested compared to white drivers, but they were more likely to receive a citation.

MSP Director Col. Joe Gasper announced the findings Wednesday, along with what they plan to do about it. The plan has five points.

According to Gasper, the department will:

  • Hiring an independent consulting firm to review MSP policies with an eye toward making recommendations for systemic changes that will address racial disparities.
  • Launching a statewide listening and engagement effort, in partnership with the Bridges to B.L.U.E. Citizen Advisory Council, in which MSP leadership will engage in open and honest conversation with leaders from communities of color, surfacing problems and finding solutions together.
  • Making more data available to MSP troopers through a dashboard that will provide real-time traffic stop data so they can learn about and adjust their actions.
  • Ramping up educational opportunities for troopers and recruits through the creation of the department’s Professional Development Bureau. This new bureau will provide training and development for enforcement members on familiar topics, as well as on new and emerging topics including mental health, wellness, de-escalation, cultural competency, decision-making, implicit bias and communication skills.
  • Issuing body worn cameras to all enforcement members who could have enforcement contact with Michigan residents and visitors.

“Col. Gasper’s commitment to addressing these findings is also a commitment to leading by example,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “All law enforcement agencies should be willing to examine their practices in an effort to improve their relationship with the people they serve -- effective public service cannot be reached without constructive reflection. I appreciate the brave members of our law enforcement community and know today’s announcement will lead to positive change.”

Titled “Michigan State Police Traffic Stop External Benchmarking: A Final Report on Racial and Ethnic Disparities,” the report was authored by Dr. Scott Wolfe, associate professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University, along with MSU School of Criminal Justice doctoral students Travis Carter and Jedidiah Knode. It presents the results of their external benchmark analysis of Michigan State Police traffic stops conducted in 2020.

“Michiganders deserve unbiased policing, transparency and accountability from their state police, and that’s what they’re going to get,” said Gasper. “To be clear, this report is not a commentary on the integrity of individual troopers, who are steadfastly committed to serving everyone with dignity and respect. But this independent study did find clear and consistent evidence that racial and ethnic disparities exist in Michigan State Police traffic stops, and we need to change that.”

The department has posted the executive summary and full report on its Transparency and Accountability webpage. WILX News 10 has included a copy of the full report at the bottom of this article.


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