LANSING, Mich. — Drivers in Ingham County will no longer be charged if they were pulled over for reasons that aren’t related to public safety.
The change in policy comes from Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon, who said she hopes to it will help to end systematic racial bias in law enforcement.
“ If you ask police agencies, they’re going to say it’s not explicit bias,” Siemon said. “But If you look at the data and listen to the stories, they’re complete opposite. And this is an issue, not just here in Lansing, but all over the United States.”
Siemon said incidents like fleeing from the scene and being stopped by an officer for being involved in another crime are public safety stops and would still be charged.
Traffic stops that aren’t related to public safety include stops for a broken taillight, expired registration or things hanging from a rear-view mirror.
“You’re nervous, you don’t know how that stop is going to end,” said community activist Michael Lynn Jr. “You know, you hear about multiple times where Black men don’t come out of those stops, whether they’re guilty or not.”
Lynn said he knows first-hand what it’s like getting stopped police in Lansing. He said most of his stops by police were pretextual.
A pretextual stop is when police pull someone over for a minor traffic offense or equipment problem and use it as an opportunity to look for a more serious crime.
“ I have to try and say, where are the areas where I can impact? And that involves low level non-public safety stops,” Siemon said. “A lot of times these lead to injury or seizure of contraband against Black or brown people...and that’s where I feel I can make the biggest impact.”
The change comes a year after former Lansing Police chief Darryl Green said he planned to discourage officers from making pretextual stops.
“It feels to me that what Carol has taken this a step further at the prosecutors office to say that any charges that are brought as a pretexual stop will be carefully scrutinized unless it is a true matter of serious crime,” said Lansing City Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar.
The policy is now in effect and Siemon said she’s working hard to make sure every driver feels comfortable on the roads.