Study Finds Racial Disparities in MSP Traffic Stops
An independent study commissioned by the Michigan State Police (MSP) found racial and ethnic disparities in the frequency and outcomes of traffic stops conducted by troopers in 2020. The department released the full report today, pledging immediate action to identify and enact solutions.
Unveiling a 5-point plan, MSP Director Col. Joe Gasper announced the department will hire an independent consulting firm to review MSP policies and recommend systemic changes to address disparities in traffic stops. He also committed to equipping all troopers with body cameras, injecting cultural awareness training into a new Professional Development Bureau and launching a statewide listening and learning tour with African American leaders.
"Michiganders deserve unbiased policing, transparency, and accountability from their state police, and that's what they're going to get," said Gasper. "To be clear, this report is not a commentary on the integrity of individual troopers, who are steadfastly committed to serving everyone with dignity and respect. But this independent study did find clear and consistent evidence that racial and ethnic disparities exist in Michigan State Police traffic stops, and we need to change that. Today, armed with new awareness about our traffic stop activity, we're taking another step toward transparency for the communities we serve. We will fix this together."
In September 2020, the MSP identified through internal data analysis potential racial disparities and commissioned an independent study by Michigan State University. That study, released January 12, found that, across Michigan and within most of the MSP's districts, African Americans were significantly more likely to be involved in a traffic stop than would be expected based on their representation in the population. The report also found that Hispanic and Asian drivers were less likely to be stopped than would be expected based on their representation in the population.
Additionally, African American drivers and Hispanic drivers were more likely than white drivers to be searched or arrested after traffic stops. Conversely, Asian drivers were significantly less likely to be searched or arrested compared to white drivers, but they were more likely to receive a citation.
The department's 5-point response plan includes:
- Hiring an independent consulting firm to review MSP policies with an eye toward making recommendations for systemic changes that will address racial disparities.
- Launching a statewide listening and engagement effort, in partnership with the Bridges to B.L.U.E. Citizen Advisory Council, in which MSP leadership will engage in open and honest conversation with leaders from communities of color, surfacing problems and finding solutions together.
- Making more data available to MSP troopers through a dashboard that will provide real-time traffic stop data so they can learn about and adjust their actions.
- Ramping up educational opportunities for troopers and recruits through the creation of the department's Professional Development Bureau. This new bureau will provide training and development for enforcement members on familiar topics, as well as on new and emerging topics including mental health, wellness, de-escalation, cultural competency, decision-making, implicit bias and communication skills.
- Issuing body worn cameras to all enforcement members who could have enforcement contact with Michigan residents and visitors.
"The results of this study confirm what people of color around the country have always known," said Rev. Dr. Daniel Moore, Sr., Pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church of Flint and Bridges to B.L.U.E. advisor. "Racial disparity in policing is real. I am glad to see the Michigan State Police and Colonel Gasper are taking this head on, and I will work with them to deliver the high standard of law enforcement that everyone deserves."
"The department is moving in the right direction, but we all have to work together to ensure these findings and action plans drive real, long-lasting changes in policing," said Tene-Sandra M. Ramsey, Field Director for The Black Slate in Detroit and Bridges to B.L.U.E. advisor.
"I joined Bridges to B.L.U.E. because the Michigan State Police pledged transparency and accountability, and that is exactly what they are demonstrating today with the release of this study and its findings," said Omar Cuevas, Vice President of Sales and Marketing with the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and Bridges to B.L.U.E. advisor. "This information is sobering, and it must serve as a baseline to evaluate the effectiveness of the MSP's 5-point plan."
In addition, the MSP is committed to further improving its data collection to allow for more in-depth analysis by implementing many of the data recommendations included in the research report. Further, the MSP will continue its partnership with the researchers from MSU to review its 2021 traffic stop data.
Titled "Michigan State Police Traffic Stop External Benchmarking: A Final Report on Racial and Ethnic Disparities," the report was authored by Dr. Scott Wolfe, associate professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University, along with MSU School of Criminal Justice doctoral students Travis Carter and Jedidiah Knode. It presents the results of their external benchmark analysis of Michigan State Police traffic stops conducted in 2020.
The department has posted the executive summary and full report on its Transparency and Accountability webpage at www.michigan.gov/MSPtransparency, and it is available directly at https://www.michigan.gov/msp/0,4643,7-123-1586_101168_109452---,00.html.