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ACLU settles racial profiling lawsuit with Michigan state police

A Michigan State Police file photo.
Michigan State Police
/

The ACLU of Michigan and the Michigan State Police have reached agreement in a lawsuit over alleged racial profiling.

The deal lets the ACLU work with a third-party firm hired by MSP to look at why troopers stop drivers of color at disproportionately high rates.

ACLU attorney Mark Fancher says his group has been pushing the agency to take that step for years.

“Over the long term, they did establish, with the assistance of experts at Michigan State University and some of their internal work, that there were racial disparities, but they resisted hiring an expert who would come in to find out why this was happening, why there was racial disproportionality,” Fancher said.

Fancher said the lawsuit, Sankofa v. Rose, came about when a Black couple faced a nearly 90-minute search of their car without probable cause.

“I am a Black man in America, and while I’m not anti-police, I know firsthand that any encounter with police can cost me my life,” Camara Sankofa, the lead plaintiff in the case, said in an ACLU statement. “We celebrate today’s settlement — it won’t erase the terror that my partner Shanelle and I endured while troopers pulled us over for no reason, but it will hold the Michigan State Police accountable.”

In a statement, Michigan State Police said it "continues to maintain there was a non-discriminatory, lawful basis for the traffic stop at issue in this lawsuit."

"Neither our internal investigation nor discovery in the lawsuit uncovered any information supporting a claim of racial profiling," the statement continued.

MSP said it's "committed to unbiased policing and the equitable treatment of all persons," and the settlement is "not an admission of liability."

Once the outside experts at the Arlington, VA-based firm CNA conduct their report, it will then be up to the state police to make changes based on the findings.

“If they fail to do that, I think it becomes a matter of wide public concern that they are resisting recommendations which are intended to eliminate or at least reduce racial disparities and disproportionality in stops,” Fancher said.

He said the ACLU hasn’t spoken with CNA yet about a timeline for their investigation, adding it could take “a significant amount of work.”

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