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Flint prosecutor limits some cases linked to police stops

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DETROIT – A Flint-area prosecutor said Tuesday that his office will no longer authorize criminal charges in cases that begin with a police officer stopping someone for simply walking in the street.

The tactic can lead to a gun or drug charge or be perceived as harassment. It's more often used in urban areas where minorities live instead of suburban communities, said Genesee County prosecutor David Leyton.

“This is an unfair practice. It's likely unconstitutional,” Leyton said.

Genesee County's black population is estimated at 20%. Blacks make up 53% of Flint, the county's largest city.

The new policy comes while officials across the U.S. talk about how minorities have been treated in the justice system. Vigorous protests have followed the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, whose neck was pinned to the ground by police.

“There is no better time than the present,” Leyton said.

He said Flint has an ordinance barring people from walking in the street when there's a sidewalk, even though the sidewalk might be in bad shape or poorly lit.

“If police bring a warrant request to my office where the only reason a more serious crime was uncovered was because the police stopped an individual for walking in the street, that warrant will be denied,” Leyton said. "There must be other tangible evidence a crime is being committed before we will entertain a warrant.”

He said communities are less safe when people don't trust police to apply laws evenly.

Defense attorney Michael Manley praised Leyton.

“The majority of the stops don't result in anything other than detaining a private citizen. I think that's what he's trying to eradicate,” Manley said.

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