Prosecutors in Ingham County, Mich., recently announced they will no longer pursue criminal charges in cases where police officers pulled motorists over for something minor and then went on a fishing expedition searching for evidence of more serious crimes. It’s a new policy meant to reduce the potential for racial profiling in the county and, surprising to not a single Black person who doesn’t live at the intersection of House Negro and Boot Licker, a Michigan police association is very unhappy about it.
According to MLive.com, Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon made the announcement Tuesday that her office won’t be prosecuting certain criminal cases that arise from vehicle searches during non-public safety traffic stops.
Non-public safety stops, or pretext stops, occur when a person is detained for something minor while police seek evidence of a more serious crime. Window tints, expired registration, a defective tail light, failing to stop leaving a private driveway, driving in the left lane, certain defective equipment and driving with a suspended license are some examples of non-public safety related violations that people could be stopped for.
The new policy won’t use the term “pretext stop” because of connotations that pretext stops are illegal, although the press release from the county prosecutor’s office acknowledges these stops “do not improve public safety, as the majority do not result in the discovery of contraband or weapons.”
“Those of us who are trying to make changes are saying we have to admit all the warts, the problems that have existed, some of which are our creation,” Siemon said in her statement regarding the new policy. “Now, we need to be willing to say if we’re really going to serve the people, then we have to be willing to look at this honestly and make the changes we need to make.”
But Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police Executive Director Robert Stevenson appears to be very upset that cops won’t be able to expect prosecution when they stop a civilian for going five miles over the speed limit and then, without probable cause, check to make sure said civilian doesn’t have drugs, weapons or a Good Fellas body in their trunk.
“The police are in the process of trying to protect their communities, and she’s basically taking a tool away from them, which is the accountability for felons and dangerous people,” Stevenson said. “If I were a citizen of Ingham County, I would be extremely concerned about this and express my concern.”
Yeeeeah—nah, bro. The “tool” being taken away from police officers is not “the accountability for felons and dangerous people,” it’s the police practice of going full canine unit on regular-degular traffic stops without reasonable cause to do so that’s being taken away.
The new policy holds that cops can still search vehicles during a stop without a warrant as long as they can show probable cause. The policy, however, “will provide direction for the county’s assistant prosecuting attorneys to heavily scrutinize whether the search was necessary or if an infraction presents an actual public safety issue,” MLive reports.
So when Stevenson said if he were a resident of Ingham County, he “would be extremely concerned” about cops no longer being able to search cars for no reason and expect criminal charges to come out of it, it just really doesn’t seem like he’s considered the feelings and experiences of the county’s Black residents and residents of color.
More from MLive:
A July 26 report from the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office notes that Black people are significantly more likely than white people to be stopped for a traffic violation. After a traffic stop, Black and Hispanic people “are significantly more likely to be searched for contraband.”
Preliminary data included in the report by the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office and the Vera Institute of Justice, a national organization who assists county prosecutors in addressing the over criminalization of marginalized communities, shows racial disparities in charged cases specific to Ingham County:
“Black and Hispanic people represent 12 percent of the population in Ingham County, but make up 41 percent of the misdemeanor caseload and 54 percent of the felony caseload in the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office. Black people in Ingham County are 4.6 times more likely to be charged with a misdemeanor and 7.6 times more likely to be charged with a felony than White people.”
Again, if you’re Black and not from the Candace Owens School of Tap Dancing for Blue Lives, none of this is surprising.
What’s happening in Ingham County—and other parts of Michigan like Washtenaw County and Lansing, according to the MLive— really needs to be the policy nationwide.