Livonia leaders dispute billboard message about racial profiling

Group given roughly 1,000 pages of requested information, police chief says

A message about racial profiling is drawing attention in Livonia.

LIVONIA, Mich. – Drivers at I-96 and Telegraph Road in Redford Township may see an eye-catching billboard.

It warns drivers they could face racial profiling in the city next door with the message: “Driving While Black? Racial profiling just ahead. Welcome to Livonia.”

The group that bought it is called Livonia Citizens Caring About Black Lives. That group says the community concern is so vast they raised the cash for the billboard in three days through a fundraiser.

The city says they have got it all wrong. As you might imagine that claim has garnered a strong response from the city.

The woman who bought the billboard is Delisha Upshaw, a Livonia resident of 15 years.

“Livonia has a history of racial profiling. Everyone knows that it’s not a surprise to anyone who lives outside of the city. Apparently, it’s based on comments on social media, it’s not a surprise to people who live inside the city. I think the question is do people think it’s OK or do they not think it’s OK?” asked Upshaw.

Behind this tough stance is a months long effort to get traffic stop data from the police department through Freedom of Information Act requests.

“We are not accusing the entire police force of being racist. It’s not about good cop or bad cop, but it is about good policies and bad policies,” she said.

A statement read by Livonia Police Chief Curtis Caid read, “Livonia police officers do not target their enforcement actions to individuals based on gender, race, religion, ethnicity, etc. Racial profiling is a serious allegation and is not tolerated. This billboard sends the exact opposite message of our values at the Livonia Police Department and of those in our community.”

Caid told Local 4 News the department has given the group roughly 1,000 pages of information it requested.

The group that bought the billboard said the purchased two weeks of space.

Livonia Mayor Maureen Miller Brosnan released the following statement:

“We will not tolerate racism in Livonia. In response to the George Floyd murder, I recommissioned the Livonia Human Relations Commission, providing them with a new vision and new appointees dedicated to improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in our community.

Less than two weeks ago, Livonia hosted the first Partnership for Progress Listening Session focused on frank conversations about race across our region. It was sponsored by the Western Wayne NAACP and the Conference of Western Wayne.

We have been in touch with representatives of Livonia Citizens Caring about Black Lives, inviting them to join the Human Relations Commission conversations and their work.

This billboard is counterproductive to these and other efforts we are taking to ensure Livonia is ‘a welcoming place for all’ – a goal that this group and I share. This billboard will not help advance the progress of diversity in our community, something to which I am committed.

Having just knocked on tens of thousands of doors last year during my campaign, I know that Livonia is more diverse than it was 10 years ago, which is a sign of progress. It is also a signal that more people feel safe and welcome in Livonia.

I look forward to continuing to engage with the community to make progress on issues of racial justice.”

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About the Author:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.