Police Photograph and Fingerprint African American Youth Over Toy Truck

August 23, 2016

Keyon Harrison, an African American 16-year-old, was walking home from school when he saw another youth with a model truck and paused to look at it.  Grand Rapids police, who later claimed that two youth looking at a toy truck is so suspicious that it justifies a police investigation, stopped Keyon, took his picture, and fingerprinted him. 

Even though Keyon did nothing more than admire a toy, his picture and fingerprints are now in a police database.  The Grand Rapids police have used this “photograph and print” procedure on about 1000 people per year, many of whom are African American youth.  Keyon and another African American youth who was similarly printed and photographed sued to end the practice. 

In November 2015 the Kent County Circuit Court decided that the “photograph and print” procedure is a legal way for police to identify people on the street.  In August 2016 the ACLU of Michigan filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Michigan Court of Appeals arguing that allowing police to seize biometric data when no crime is committed is a dangerous erosion of the Fourth Amendment.

(People v. Harrison; People v. Johnson; ACLU Attorneys Miriam Aukerman, Dan Korobkin and Michael J. Steinberg; Cooperating Attorneys Ted Becker and Margaret Hannon of U-M Law School.) 

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