Couple sues Michigan State Police for racial profiling in 2019 after being targets of 2-hour traffic stop

Couple was not given citation or warning after stop ended

Federal lawsuit against Michigan State Police claims racial profiling in 2019
Federal lawsuit against Michigan State Police claims racial profiling in 2019

OAK PARK, Mich.A Metro Detroit couple is suing the Michigan State Police after they said they were racially profiled during a traffic stop two years ago.

The couple said the officers involved in the traffic stop violated their 4th and 14th Amendment rights. The incident happened at 3:20 p.m. on Aug. 15, 2019.

Shanelle Thomas was driving home from work with Camara Sankofa.

Sankofa said the commute home turned into a traffic stop with Michigan State Police that lasted two hours. Both individuals are educators and were heading home from where they work.

They were near the area of Eight Mile Road and Southfield Road in Oak Park when they were pulled over. They said police accused them of running a red light.

“I knew I did nothing wrong. There was no reason why I should have been pulled over other than driving while Black,” Sankofa said.

The couple’s attorney, Mark Francher with the ACLU, announced the lawsuit on Wednesday.

“The case concerns an unwarranted, unconstitutional traffic stop of this law abiding, responsible, professional couple, that lasted almost two hours,” Francher said. “In that time our clients were made to exit their vehicle. They were asked whether they possessed illegal drugs. They were questioned separately. K-9 units were called. Their vehicle was emptied and searched.”

Francher said when the traffic stop was over the couple was told to leave. They weren’t given a citation or a warning. He said this is a common issue with Michigan State Police.

“Although African Americans are 14% of Michigan population, they represent 17% of traffic stops by MSP in 2017. They represented 19% in 2018, and 20% in 2019,” Francher said.

Michigan State Police released this statement about the lawsuit:

Michigan State Police statement. (Michigan State Police)

About the Authors:

Larry Spruill Jr. joined the Local 4 News team in January 2018. Prior, he worked at WJAX in Jacksonville, Florida. Larry grew up as a military kid because his father is a retired Chief of the United States Air Force.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.