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Racial disparities in MSP's traffic enforcement not driven by widespread discrimination, report finds

Michigan State Police

Racial disparities in traffic stops conducted by Michigan State Police "do not appear to be the result of widespread discriminatory policing practices by MSP personnel," according to a report commissioned by MSP in 2022 and released this week.

The consulting firm CNA prepared the report over 18 months, beginning after a separate report by researchers at Michigan State University showed Black drivers were stopped, searched, and arrested at disproportionately high rates.

The new report — the first element of a five-point plan undertaken by MSP to address the disparities — looked at factors including "how MSP recruits and hires its troopers, instructs and trains its troopers, and supervises its troopers."

It found that, while there were no overtly discriminatory policing practices uncovered during the audit, there are "certain MSP traffic enforcement policies and program initiatives that have likely contributed to the racial disparities," and state police "can and should" make changes to its policies and operations to ensure more equitable enforcement.

The report's authors made more than 50 recommendations for MSP, noting, for example, that the department "did not meet its recruiting goals of obtaining a 25% racial minority applicant pool," and for those who do apply, "disparities exist in graduation and attrition rates."

MSP should "continue examining barriers to recruitment for non-White and nonmale recruits by consistently tracking reasons for failure or attrition, and then implementing practices that will help reduce identified barriers," the report said.

Civil rights advocates called on the department to follow the recommendations and remedy the racial disparities.

ACLU attorney Mark Fancher said the report’s findings are concerning. “When you have discriminatory outcomes and effects, it doesn't matter what motivated, whether it was something that's unintentional, or whether it was purposeful, it still causes problems for those who are victims of it," he said.

Arjun Thakkar is joining WKAR as a new politics and civics reporter after stints at the Detroit Free Press and Bridge Michigan. He’s also a recent graduate of the University of Michigan.
Brett joined Michigan Public in December 2021 as an editor.
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