Citing Alarming Statistics, ACLU of Michigan Asks Ferndale to Investigate Possible Racial Profiling of Black Motorists by Police

DETROIT -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan in a letter today urged the Ferndale Police Department to hire an independent firm to investigate why black motorists are being issued traffic citations at a rate grossly disproportionate to their presence in the local population. After receiving multiple complaints from the public regarding possible racial profiling in Ferndale, the ACLU of Michigan obtained public records from the Ferndale Police Department that indicate that black drivers are far more likely to be ticketed in Ferndale than white drivers.

“There is no place for racial profiling in law enforcement,” said Mark Fancher, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s Racial Justice Project. “It’s time for Ferndale to seek outside help on this issue and, if warranted, implement reforms. The public cannot have confidence in the police unless they know that law-enforcement decisions are fair and unbiased.”

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU of Michigan, the Ferndale Police Department produced a summary of all traffic tickets issued by Ferndale police officers between January 1, 2013 and May 15, 2014. The public data shows that, even though black people make up less than 10 percent of Ferndale’s population, they made up approximately 60 percent of the motorists ticketed by Ferndale officers when the race of the driver was known.

Based on these troubling statistics, the ACLU of Michigan wrote a letter to Ferndale police chief Timothy D. Collins encouraging him to appoint independent experts to conduct an in-depth statistical study and evaluation of the department’s police practices. The ACLU’s letter noted that a similar approach was recently taken by the Kalamazoo Police Department based on racial profiling concerns. After the study there revealed that black people in Kalamazoo were more than twice as likely as white people to be stopped by police, the Kalamazoo police chief implemented recommended reforms.

“Racial profiling contradicts this country’s most fundamental principles and ideals,” the ACLU of Michigan wrote in its letter. “Every person should be able to live without the fear or experience of being singled out by law enforcement and treated differently because of their color. Racial profiling also places society at greater risk of crime because police are less focused on the conduct of those who break laws, and they are more focused on law abiding citizens who happen to be people of color. In addition, effective law enforcement requires a cooperative relationship between the police and the community.”

The letter comes on the heels of multiple complaints that the ACLU of Michigan has received regarding possible racially motivated traffic stops in Ferndale, particularly near the area of Woodward and Eight Mile Road, which borders Detroit. The complaints led the organization to request and analyze data from the Ferndale Police Department about the race of drivers stopped by Ferndale officers.

Many of the findings were startling. For example, a single Ferndale officer issued 4,189 citations during the period that the ACLU of Michigan examined. Of the citations given to motorists whose race was recorded, 2,404 citations--or 66 percent--were issued to black drivers while only 1,248 (34 percent) were issued to white motorists. Another officer issued 4,025 total citations, with 64 percent (2,399) going to black drivers and 36 percent (1,333) being issued to white drivers in instances where the race of the motorist was known.

In addition to Fancher, Gillian Talwar, chair of the ACLU’s Oakland County Lawyers Committee, also signed the letter.

Read our letter to the Ferndale Police Department

View traffic citation data from Ferndale