GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A newly released study reveals black and Hispanic drivers were pulled over by Grand Rapids police at a higher rate when compared to other motorists.
The Traffic Stop Data Analysis, conducted by Lamberth Consulting, was released Tuesday as part of a 12-point plan to increase transparency in the Grand Rapids Police Department and improve relations between police and the community.
The study looked at 20 intersections throughout Grand Rapids during 2013, 2014 and 2015. The ethnicity of drivers at the intersections were determined by surveying on randomly selected days and times, according to a release from the city.
BLACK DRIVERS IN GRAND RAPIDS
The 100-page report found black drivers were 1.85 times more likely than other drivers to be stopped between 2013 and 2014. That’s up from 1.4 times in 2004.
However, the odds of a traffic stop involving black drivers climbed even higher in 2015, when they were twice as likely to be stopped.
Black drivers faced the worst odds at intersections on the city’s northwest side. African-American drivers were most likely to be stopped at Bridge and Stocking NW, where their odds of being pulled over were 2.77 times more likely than other drivers.
Leonard Street and Turner Avenue NW was the next worst intersection. Black drivers were 2.67 times more likely than other drivers to be stopped there.
The next worst trouble spot was a few blocks down the road. Black drivers at Alpine Avenue NW and Leonard Street NW were 2.37 times more likely to be stopped than their counterparts.
The lowest odds of a traffic stop for black drivers was at Lake Eastbrook Boulevard SE and Sparks Drive SE; black drivers there were 0.48 times more likely to be pulled over than their counterparts.
Black drivers were also more likely to be searched by police, but they were no more likely to be carrying contraband compared to other motorists.
HISPANIC DRIVERS IN GRAND RAPIDS
When compared to other drivers, the study found Hispanic drivers were 1.3 times more likely to be pulled over by Grand Rapids police in 2015.
Results of the study reveal Hispanic drivers were pulled over at a higher rate while driving in some areas of the city.
Hispanic drivers were 1.77 times more likely to be stopped at Lake Eastbrook Boulevard SE and Sparks Drive SE than other drivers. Hispanics’ odds of being pulled over by police were only higher at 28th Street and Breton Road SE, where they were 2.02 times more likely to be stopped.
The study found police searched Hispanic drivers at about the same rate they were stopped, and contraband was less likely to be found during the searches compared to other drivers.
THE CITY’S RESPONSE TO THE STUDY
City Manager Greg Sundstrom said Tuesday the results of the study were unacceptable and contrary to the values of the community.
“Findings from the traffic stop study was very troubling,” Sundstrom said in a Tuesday news release. “The study gives us a three-year review of the operational practices of the Grand Rapids Police Department, prior to the enactment of the 12-point plan, showing disparities in Grand Rapids Police Department traffic stops. The city does not shy away from these disappointing findings. We own this.”
At Tuesday’s press conference, 24 Hour News 8 asked GRPD Chief David Rahinsky why the statistics from this study were much worse than those from 2004.
“I think every generation, whether it’s the Watts riots or Rodney King or Ferguson, I think every generation in law enforcement has watershed moments. The summer of 2014 was a watershed moment for my generation of law enforcement,” Rahinsky explained.
After reviewing the results of the study, consultants gave GRPD the following 12 recommendations:
- Analyze GRPD’s stop and search data for 2016 traffic stops.
- Publicize stop and search data over the next four years.
- Begin a comprehensive review of policies and procedures.
- Review data collection efforts to ensure recording of relevant data.
- Evaluate training to ensure staff is trained in bias-free policing.
- Assess staff reward and recognition and promotion programs.
- Evaluate Field Training Officers to ensure correct training practices.
- Evaluate Field Training Officers to ensure they are aware of the need to protect against bias based policing.
- Assess and evaluate the GRPD’s early warning system to determine which officers may be stopping and/or searching minority motorists at a higher rate than their peers.
- Continue to bring officers and the community together to discuss the report and community and police relations.
- GRPD should begin to survey the community on a regular basis to obtain citizen feedback.
- Within six months, report to the community on action taken as a result of the Traffic Stop Study.
Rahinsky said they’ve already implemented some of those recommendations from the researchers through the city’s 12-point plan to improve police and community relations. He also said many improvements have already been made since the last year of the traffic study.
LOCAL NAACP LEADER: STUDY RESULTS ARE ‘HORRIFIC’
Cle Jackson, the head of the NAACP of Grand Rapids, was at city hall Tuesday as the study results were presented.
“I think it’s horrific. It’s horrible. But it’s not surprising because this is what we’ve been seeing for years,” Jackson told 24 Hour News 8 after the presentation.
Jackson said GRPD is moving in the right direction as the city continues to implement its 12-point plan. But he said that this study — and recent events — show that more work needs to be done.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Jackson said when asked whether he thought GRPD would make the necessary changes to fix the problems laid out in the traffic study.
CITY TO HOLD COMMUNITY MEETINGS
The city will be holding community meetings Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the results of the report.
Tuesday, meetings will be held at 5:30 p.m. at LINC UP Gallery at 1167 Madison Avenue SE and again at 7:30 p.m. at The Edge Urban Fellow located at 735 Ritzema Court SW.
Wednesday, meetings are scheduled for 4 p.m. at Michigan First Credit Union, located at 1815 Breton Road SE, 5:30 p.m. at Rockford Construction, located at 601 First Street NW and 7:30 p.m. at GRPS University, located at 1400 Fuller Avenue NE.
–24 Hour News 8’s Evan Dean contributed to this report.
Online:The full Traffic Stop Data Analysis (pdf)
**Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified Lamberth Consulting as Lamerth Consulting. The text has been updated. We regret the error.