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Study shows African-Americans more likely to be pulled over, searched in Kalamazoo

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The study looked at traffic stops performed by the Kalamazoo Public Safety Department.

African-American drivers are more than twice as likely to get pulled over than Caucasian drivers in the City of Kalamazoo. That’s according to a study the city released this week.

The study only looked at how the department deals with traffic stops. The data covers stops between March 2012 and February 2013.

Once pulled over, the study found black drivers were more likely to get searched or handcuffed. Despite that, the study found Kalamazoo Public Safety officers were less likely to find contraband like drugs when searching black drivers than when they searched white drivers.

“The question was asked of me ‘do you think your officers are racists?’ absolutely not,” Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley said. He says the results surprised him.

“These officers are hardworking, they’re well intended. They’re good people. They care about this community. They care about their profession. So you always go in, at least I did, in terms of ‘our officers are behaving appropriately’ and doing what they believe they should be doing,” Hadley said.

Hadley says he’s already drafting changes to some internal police policies. He says officers will undergo some training and says awareness of the new data alone will also help the department make improvements.

He says he’s been humbled by the community’s generally supportive response. “I believe in the perseverance of this community and their willingness to help and we’re going to be better off in the future because of it,” Hadley said.

Similar studies have been undertaken at police departments in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Washtenaw County within the past decade.

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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