MSP traffic stop data reveals need for deeper study

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN — Data released from the Michigan State Police about traffic stops in Berrien and Cass counties includes two data points: number of stops and race of individual involved.

The MSP has created a Transparency and Accountability webpage for residents to see information laid out about the state police department.

On Sept. 4, MSP Director Col. Joe Gasper announced the creation of the webpage. According to the MSP, the website will include information about its department policies, strategic plans, training requirements, staffing and recruiting numbers, as well as use of force and traffic stop data.

Gasper announced the MSP had created a citizen advisory council.

The Bridges to BLUE (Build, Listen, Unite, Engage) Citizen Advisory Council includes 10 citizen volunteers. The volunteers will provide outside perspective to the MSP practices that affect the public they interact with.

“We know that accountability and transparency are necessary components for building community trust and support, which is the goal of this new webpage and the purpose for creating the Bridges to BLUE Citizen Advisory Council,” Gasper said. “By sharing information about the operations of the department both online and with the Bridges to BLUE Citizen Advisory Council, it is my hope that we’ll increase police-community relations through better understanding, develop improved policies and contribute to more informed discussions about police reform.”

The data released includes total traffic stops per county across the state from 2017 to 2019. The data provided by the state shows that in traffic stops performed by Michigan State troopers from 2017 to 2019 in Berrien County, between 23.36 percent to 25.82 percent of the stops involved a black or African American individual. According to 2010 U.S. Census data, Berrien County’s population is 14.8 percent black or African American. From 2017 to 2019 in Cass County, between 11.2 to 11.75 percent of the traffic stops by Michigan State troopers involved a black or African American person, though according to the 2010 U.S. Census data, black or African American people make up just 5.2 percent of the Cass County population.

While Berrien County’s population, according to the 2010 U.S. Census data, is 79.7 percent white, between 63.7 and 68 percent of the traffic stops made my Michigan State troopers involved white individuals. In Cass County, the population according to the same census data is 89.7 percent white, and traffic stops by Michigan State troopers involving white individuals were between 82.9 percent and 83.8 percent between 2017 and 2019.

“Colonel [Joe] Gasper is seeking an independent, in-depth analysis of our traffic stop data to determine if there is cause for concern,” said Sharon Banner, manager of public affairs section with the Michigan State Police. “As of now, we only have two data points: the race of a driver involved in a. traffic stop and the population estimates from the U.S. Census. This information alone is not enough to allow us to draw any conclusions, but it’s certainly something we want to more closely review to ensure that our actions are not having a disparate impact on persons of color.”

Other factors that MSP will be looking into will include locations and reasons for stops, whether a search was conducted, the outcome of the stop, and finding and setting an accurate baseline for comparison.

“Once this advanced research and analysis is completed, the results will be shared publicly,” Banner said. “If we find that changes need to be made to policies or practices, we are committed to making the necessary changes.”

 

 

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