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racial bias

detroit police car
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

An African-American police officer is suing the Detroit police department, claiming rampant racial discrimination, a hostile work environment, and an atmosphere of retaliation against black officers.

11-year department veteran Johnny Strickland lays out that case in a new federal civil rights lawsuit. It accuses Detroit police of fostering widespread racial discrimination, where white supervisors retaliate against black subordinates who complain.

Grand Rapids Police Department
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Grand Rapids Police Department wants to rebuild trust with the community. So it started a pilot program that it hopes will help do that.

The department is using principles from a book called The Speed of Trust to bridge the gap between community members and itself.

Eric Payne, the deputy chief of police in Grand Rapids, says communication between police and community is most important.

“Once we establish that, I think that’s where relationships get built, and then trust comes from that,” Payne said.

Siwatu-Salama Ra with her daughter, Zala.
Family photo

A 26-year-old, pregnant environmental activist is serving a two-year sentence at Michigan’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility right now.

But Siwatu-Salama Ra says she acted in self-defense when she pulled a gun on another woman last summer during an altercation outside her mother’s Detroit home.

An aerial view of Little Caesar's Arena.
Michigan Radio

An African American carpenter says he suffered racial discrimination and harassment on the job during the construction of Detroit’s Little Caesar’s Arena.

Harold Wilson is suing Hardman Construction, the contractor he spent just two days working for in 2015.

Wilson says he had trouble getting hired, despite a need for skilled tradesmen and Detroit resident workers. A city ordinance requires that 51% of all employees working on major development projects in Detroit be city residents.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

We don’t often recognize the implicit biases we all carry.

But study after study shows we tend to interact most with people who are like us: people who look like us, talk like us. 

One of places where our implicit bias can be especially problematic is in the classroom.

LBJ Presidential Library

News media around the world are talking about Detroit’s resurgence.

Politicians in the city and the state, such as Gov. Rick Snyder, hype its revitalization.

“New investments have helped fuel a rapid dramatic transformation of Detroit and today it’s America’s comeback city,” he said in a video.

But that’s only part of the story of Detroit.

In the city’s neighborhoods, many people are still struggling.

However, there was a plan released in the 1960s to help end racial discrimination in Detroit and the nation.

Groups brainstorming
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Elected leaders in Grand Rapids are trying to satisfy critics who say they’re not doing enough to change police policies and outcomes critics say are racially biased.

It's part of a larger effort launched after violence in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.

Grand Rapids Police Department station
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A new study finds Grand Rapids Police are biased when it comes to pulling over drivers in the city.

A study released this week shows black drivers are twice as likely to be stopped. 

The University of Michigan Health System
The University of Michigan

After being tipped off by a hospital chaplain that it seemed like hospital security was called more for black patients then white patients, Dr. Carmen Green decided to look into it.

In December 2014, Green was as the head of the Office for Healthcare Equity and Inclusion (OHEI) at the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS). Green filed a report to the then-acting CEO of UMHS Anthony Denton. According to the report, “More requests (to call security) were made for black patients/visitors then would be expected by their representation in the overall patient census.”

Police Officer
Matthew Sutherland / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Back in 2004, researchers found Grand Rapids police officers did not pull black drivers over at higher rates than whites ones.

But now, the city is getting an updated study.

It’s part of a broader effort to improve relations between minority communities and GRPD in reaction to riots in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. Grand Rapids outfitted all officers with body cameras last year as part of the effort.

By Bill McGraw is a reporter for Bridge Magazine, a Detroit Journalism Cooperative partner

Though their sprawling region had long wrestled with segregation, and racial violence has dominated national headlines this summer, about half of all metro Detroit residents say local race relations today are generally good, according to an exclusive new poll by the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

Ali Lapetina / Detroit Journalism Cooperative

Attitudes about race have been improving in southeast Michigan, but there are still wide gaps on some issues between white people and black people. Those are some of the findings in a new survey commissioned by the Detroit Journalism Cooperative. 

The survey included people from mostly black communities, mixed communities, and mostly white communities in the Detroit metropolitan area.

When asked to rank the importance of race relations, black and white people ranked that issue below issues such as education and crime.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Racial tensions are growing as the perceptions and evidence of racial inequality are growing.

Many of Detroit's residents see billionaires buying up downtown buildings where new retailers open shop, selling items most of Detroit's impoverished citizens cannot afford. There's a marked divide between that prosperity in downtown and the poverty in the neighborhoods.

That divide is stark in the Cass Corridor. New residents, often white, are moving in. Rents are rising. New restaurants and boutique shops are popping up. The old residents, often black, are being pushed out.

Grand Rapids police officer directing traffic.
Flickr user lincolnblues / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

The Grand Rapids City Commission tomorrow will vote on whether to hire an outside consultant to study if its police force is racially biased when pulling over drivers.

A similar study conducted in 2004 found no systemic bias in Grand Rapids. But after the riots in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, people who spoke at community meetings still felt racial targeting was a problem in Grand Rapids. 

That's why city leaders are recommending a second study based on more current data. 

Prison bars
flickr user Thomas Hawk / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

There's a category in which Michigan beats countries like China, Russia, Thailand, Cuba and Iran. Michigan imprisons its citizens at a far higher rate.

And Michigan is actually below the national average. States such as Louisiana, Georgia, Texas and Mississippi imprison as many as one out of every 100 residents. 

The U.S. turns to incarceration much more readily than the rest of the world. 

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

America struggles with race and those struggles are intensifying. As the white majority has been shrinking, racial tensions have been rising. You can see it in anti-immigration movements. It’s in the feeling among some white people that they’re being oppressed.

Meanwhile, a new generation of black protest organizations has been taking to the streets as black Americans feel a greater threat from white-dominated politics and police.

Race relations have changed since the civil rights movements of the 1960s and they seem to be changing again.

Grand Rapids police officer directing traffic.
Flickr user lincolnblues / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

Attorneys have filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Grand Rapids and three city police officers over a 2014 incident that left an unarmed teenage boy in the hospital.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint city council holds a special meeting this afternoon to discuss a plan to merge two local district courts. 

68th District Court covers the city of Flint. 67th District Court covers the rest of Genesee County. 

Under the merger plan, the 68th District would become a division of the 67th District. The merger would save the city of Flint more than $8 million over the next ten years.