Attorney for Racial Justice Project responds to report on discriminatory policing by MSP

The ACLU of Michigan says MSP isn’t doing enough to reduce the traffic stops that often end in searches and arrests for minor infractions.

Michigan State Police troopers pull over Black and Hispanic drivers at a rate that outpaces their presence in the state, according to a new report.

However, the report — conducted by CNA, an independent research and analysis organization, at MSP’s request — found that it’s not due to discrimination, instead laying blame on an informal quota system within the agency. The system allows officers to go where they want to write traffic citations — and most often, troopers are going into urban areas frequented by minorities.

“It is structural racism,” said Mark Fancher, a staff attorney for the Racial Justice Project of the ACLU of Michigan.

Fancher and the ACLU have been leading the charge in changing the culture within the Michigan State Police for years.

“These practices and policies — which contribute to discriminatory outcomes — are identifiable and they were things that we flagged for MSP all along,” Fancher said.

The report highlights dozens of ways MSP can reduce traffic stop disparities, including improving training and having more supervisor oversight into where troopers will be patrolling for traffic infractions.

It also recommends improving the diversity of the Michigan State Police.

Fancher is skeptical that would work.

“That probably won’t make as big a difference as people would hope,” he said. “And that’s because law enforcement culture is something that is so well entrenched — it is so institutionalized — that it doesn’t always matter what color the officers are.”

In a statement announcing the study, the director of the state police, Col. James F. Grady II, said the agency is “committed to fair and equitable policing” and that “discriminatory behavior is not acceptable.”

Use the media player above to hear the full interview with Mark Fancher, staff attorney for the Racial Justice Project of the ACLU.

Trusted, accurate, up-to-date.

WDET strives to make our journalism accessible to everyone. As a public media institution, we maintain our journalistic integrity through independent support from readers like you. If you value WDET as your source of news, music and conversation, please make a gift today.

Donate today »


  • Russ McNamara
    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.