Studies on MSP, Detroit police, find racial disparities in traffic stops, concealed gun arrests

January 13, 2022, 9:27 AM

(Photo: DepositPhotos)

It's been a difficult week for law enforcement agencies that don't want to appear racist.

On Monday, it emerged that a massive pandemic-era uptick in concealed weapons arrests in Detroit has disproportionately impacted Black people, who comprise 97 percent of arrests and only 77 percent of Detroit's population. That data, which came from a coalition of activist groups including the legal nonprofit the Neighborhood Defender Service, also found that the rate of arrests of white people for CCW stayed about the same throughout the pandemic. In most cases, those arrested had gun permits, but the weapon was not stowed properly.

On Wednesday, separate research was released re-affirming that Michigan State Police troopers pull over Black people at higher rates than whites. While Black people make up nearly 14 percent of Michigan's population, they represented 22 percent of traffic stops in 2020, the Michigan State University study commissioned by state police Col. Joseph Gasper found. 

The agencies are responding to the criticism in different ways.

The Detroit Police Department did not address the racial disparity specifically, but rather the quadrupling of non-violent gun arrests. Chief James White was interviewed by WXYZ:

James White ... says the sharp rise in CCW arrests is not in response to a directive to his officers.

“There is no mandate, there is no push to get more guns off the street,” White said. “But the push is to make our community safe.”

... White stressed that even law-abiding gun owners pose a risk when they improperly carry a weapon—even if it’s theirs. 

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy meanwhile acknowledged the surge in cases as a potential problem, but blamed Detroit's ex-chief-turned-Republican-gubernatorial-candidate:

Worthy said that under former Chief James Craig, the department was making arrests it shouldn’t have.

“Their mandate was: ‘Let’s go out and get as many CCW arrests as we can. In fact, let’s even ask all of Detroit to arm themselves,'” Worthy said, adding that she and former Chief Craig often butted heads over some gun arrests.

Craig responded that he never intended for officers to make illegal CCW arrests and that those accused of it faced internal investigation.

(Photo: Michigan State Police)

MSP, meanwhile, says it has a five-point plan to address its issue, The Detroit News reports:

Although Gasper said it's not clear what's causing the disparity, he said he's launching a plan to address it. The plan includes hiring an independent expert to review MSP policies; establishing a statewide "listening and engagement effort ... in communities of color;" making traffic stop data available to troopers via an internal dashboard; and creating a Professional Development Bureau for further implicit bias and other training.

Michigan State Police statement

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