Traffic Stop Quotas Create Racial Profiling Hazard
After a state trooper complained to the department of civil rights, the Michigan State Police issued a public statement in March 2016 admitting that troopers are evaluated in part on whether they make at least 70 percent of the collective average number of traffic stops made at the post to which they are assigned.
In August 2016, the ACLU of Michigan wrote to the director of the Michigan State Police urging that this policy be terminated because of the risk that it would lead to racial profiling. Because of the policy, troopers with an insufficient number of stops facing imminent evaluation are more likely to target for groundless or arbitrary stops individuals whom they perceive to be powerless to effectively complain, which disproportionately includes people of color.
Additionally, we inquired about whether troopers record the racial identities of drivers stopped, and whether there are procedures in place to monitor racial patterns of stops and to remedy practices that are racially discriminatory. In response to the ACLU’s concerns, the Michigan State Police acknowledged that troopers have the capacity to record the racial identities of persons stopped, but it has been such an irregular practice that the agency lacks reliable information about the race of the drivers it stops.
In January 2017, the law enforcement agency revised its policies to require that state troopers record the race of all drivers that they stop. Following the change in policy, we used Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain records reflecting the racial identities of drivers stopped. These records revealed disturbing racial patterns of stops made by certain members of a unit charged with the task of drug interdiction. In January 2018 we wrote to the Michigan State Police highlighting these problems and requesting that the agency engage the services of an expert qualified to determine whether the agency is engaged in racial profiling.
(ACLU Attorney Mark Fancher.)