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New Policy Aims To Reduce Traffic Stops That Target People Of Color In Ingham County

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The Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office will no longer charge people for “minor” infractions after they’re pulled over during traffic stops under a policy announced byProsecutor Carol Siemon Tuesday.

Those include infractions that do not pose an“actual danger” to a person, property, or the public. 

Police often use those stops as a pretext to charge people with more serious crimes, according to the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office. 

Examples include window tint, expired registration, a single defective taillight, failing to stop leaving a private drive, driving in the left lane, some defective equipment infractionsand driving with a suspended license.

The move is an effort to create a fairer criminal justice system for minority communities. 

"Evidence shows that traffic stops often reflect racial bias, and police stop, question, and search people of color at higher rates than white people,” Siemon said in a statement. 

“We plan to prioritize both public safety and a fair and equitable justice system,”she said. “This policy change is part of an ongoing series of reforms, designed to work in service of a more just system. 

That means people will no longer be charged by the county during an unrelated traffic stop for: possession of a controlled substance; receiving and concealing stolen property; minor in possession of alcohol; carrying a concealed weapon; possession of brass knuckles; possession of a firearm in a vehicle and possession of a firearm in public by a minor. 

Assistant prosecuting attorneyswill “carefully scrutinize” the reason for a vehicle search that is not authorized by a search warrant.

Similarly, a warrant request will be denied if it's for a non-public safety related infraction. 

"Today’s policy change meets an urgent need to reexamine and reconsider how policing practices can perpetuate racial injustice in the criminal legal system—or work in service of a more just system,” Siemon said.

Megan Schellong hosted and produced Morning Edition on WKAR from 2021 to 2024.
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