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Court Says Grand Rapids Responsible for Policy That Allows Police to Illegally Arrest Innocent People

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan applauds the decision of U.S. District Judge Paul L. Maloney that holds the City of Grand Rapids responsible for permitting police officers to arrest innocent people for trespassing at local businesses during operating hours—even when business owners didn’t ask them to leave.

The court’s decision about the policy—which resulted in African Americans being stopped at more than twice the rate as whites under the initiative—comes after years of litigation brought by the ACLU.

“No one should fear going to jail just because they stop to chat with a friend outside a store or pull into a parking lot to take a phone call,” said ACLU of Michigan senior staff attorney Miriam Aukerman. “Now that the Court has spoken, this should put an end to the Grand Rapids Police Department’s decades-old practice of arresting people, disproportionately people of color, simply for looking out of place.” 

The suit, Hightower v. City of Grand Rapids, was filed after plaintiff Tyrone Hightower was arrested for trespassing while waiting in a parking lot to see if friends had gotten into a bar.

Another plaintiff in the lawsuit, Kirk McConer, was arrested for trespassing after he stopped to talk with a friend outside a store where he had just purchased a soda. All four plaintiffs in the case are African American men.

In May 2017, the Michigan Court of Appeals addressed the same issue in a separate case, People v. Maggit, and also rules that GRPD’s practice was unconstitutional. 

You can read the Court’s decision here.