MI Supreme Court taking on GRPD policy case

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Supreme Court has set a date to hear a case involving a controversial practice carried out by the Grand Rapids Police Department.

The case involves two Black teenagers who were photographed and fingerprinted by GRPD officers but were never charged with a crime.

The two separate incidents occurred in 2011 and 2012. Neither of the teens had identification on them at the time of the stop. 

The ACLU of Michigan has taken on the case, arguing the teens’ constitutional rights were violated.

“They’re completely innocent and yet their information, private, personal, unique information to them is now in a police database and is stored by the police forever,” ACLU of Michigan Legal Director Dan Korobkin said.

The lawsuits were first filed in 2014 but never made it before a jury. The judge ruled in both cases that the officers’ actions were legal.

Despite GRPD’s victories in the courtroom, in 2015 the department changed its policy on fingerprinting and photographing individuals without identification, the practice referred to as “P&P.”

The department announced it will no longer collect fingerprints as a “matter of routine practice when conducting a field interview of an individual.”

Korobkin said cutting back on the practice isn’t enough.

“The P&P’s should just be sent to the dust bin of history,” he said. “This is a failed policy. It hasn’t made people in Grand Rapids any safer and it’s been violating the constitutional rights of people — especially young people and especially people of color — for decades.”

In addition to arguing the policy is a violation of the 4th amendment, the ACLU of Michigan claims the practice also encourages racial profiling.

After reviewing 439 P&P stops between 2011 and 2012, the ACLU found that 75% of the people stopped by police were Black, while just 15% were white.

“The racial disparities are truly shocking,” Korobkin said. “The vast majority of individuals who had their fingerprints and photos taken under this policy were Black, even though Black people make up a minority of the population in Grand Rapids.”

Although their argument didn’t prevail in the lower courts, the Korobkin says the legal framework surrounding the 4th amendment has evolved in recent years.

“I think one of the reasons the (Michigan) Supreme Court took it on is that they realized the lower courts hadn’t really been using the most up-to-date law and we expect they will apply the most up-to-date law when they hear this case in the coming weeks,” Korobkin said.

The case is scheduled for Nov. 9.

News 8 reached out to GRPD for comment on the case. Two days after this report aired, the city released a statement that reads:

“The City of Grand Rapids is confident that its policy was appropriate under the law and used with reasonable justification in appropriately narrow circumstances. We look forward the opportunity to argue these points before the Michigan Supreme Court.”

News 8 also asked the department for recent data regarding P&P stops but didn’t hear back. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Growing Grand Rapids and Beyond

More Growing Grand Rapids and beyond

Top Stories On WOODTV.com

Know something newsworthy? Report It!

News 8 Links