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Study will determine if racial profiling a factor in Kalamazoo traffic stops

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The study will look at data from traffic stops in several locations in Kalamazoo.

Kalamazoo’sPublic Safety Department is conducting a study to see if its officers unfairly target racial and ethnic minorities.

The study is not being court ordered, the city isn’t being sued, and there hasn’t been any big incident that sparked the study. Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley says that’s a good thing.

“These types of issues can bring a lot of emotion… and it makes it a lot more difficult to talk reasonably and to talk productively and constructively in how we move forward,” Hadley said.

Hadley says the department wants to try to avoid problems and they’re hoping the study will help.

“Spending money on this type of study I think is really an investment into our relationship with the community; and how important they are in how we operate as a public safety department and how we keep this city safe,” Hadley said.

Ron Ware grew up in Kalamazoo and used to be a police officer. He was one of about dozen people who showed up to a public meeting about the study Monday night. He was the only African-American man in attendance.

“I’ve traveled quite a bit so yes, (racial profiling) happens; at least, as a black man in America you get that feeling sometimes. But you have to deal with it and move on, you try not to make it worse,” Ware said.

He and Chief Hadley say the racial profiling study will help avoid problems and strengthen community trust in police. 

Hadley expects more people will turn out to public meetings Tuesday night at 6:30p.m. at the Hispanic American Council, and another that's scheduled is later this month at Mt. Zion Baptist Church.

"Its a wonderful thing that they have that much foresight to want to get with the community as much as they can. They understand there are issues and so to be able to address them like this is a very positive thing," Ware said.

Similar studies have been undertaken at police departments in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Washtenaw County within the past decade. The results from Kalamazoo's study will be available in the spring.

Federal grants will pay for the bulk of the study’s roughly $115,000 cost.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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