Racial Profiling in Saginaw

September 04, 2013

In September 2013 the ACLU of Michigan filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice against law enforcement agencies operating in Saginaw. The complaint identified racial profiling practices that appear to be systemic and broad-based.

They include so-called “jump-out” stops, which involve teams of officers roving communities of color and descending upon individuals who commit minor infractions such as jay walking and littering. During these intimidating encounters the police often search the individual, ask for identification and ask questions about other crimes in the area.

The ACLU complaint also identified pretext stops of people of color for purported noise ordinance violations. The ACLU specifically documented the experience of one Saginaw resident, Kevin Jones, who was stopped by police and asked if he consented to a search of his car. When he declined, police officers reportedly arrested him and then searched and impounded his car for playing loud music. One of the officers also added: “I’m not trying to be racial or anything but what y’all do over there”—gesturing across the bridge toward a predominantly black neighborhood—“I don’t care, but over here if we hear it we are going to take your vehicle and arrest you.” Charges were later dropped against Mr. Jones.

A public records request revealed that during a one-year period the same officers who stopped Mr. Jones had arrested nine individuals for noise violations. Four of the individuals who were stopped were identified as black, two have Spanish-language surnames, and the remaining three were not identified by race. An investigation by the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is pending.

(ACLU Attorney Mark Fancher.)

To view the full 2013-2014 Legal Docket, click here.