Trooper claims state police policies encourage racial profiling
Are certain drivers targeted more frequently by police than others, it's a bold allegation from a Michigan State Trooper.
Craig Tuer is a 20-year veteran with the Michigan State Police Department and says if some people of color - black men in particular - feel police are constantly stopping them or following them, it's not a coincidence or their imagination. It's by design.
"Now the police I do not believe for a minute are inherently racist, but the policies that are put in place reward a racist behavior," said Tuer.
In an email to the state department of civil rights, Craig Tuer wrote those policies have led to racial profiling.
He says it starts at the top, with commanders getting bonus pay for their post's performance, then troopers getting overtime for court appearances or jail runs and a floating quota system used for state troopers' performance evaluations.
For instance if a post averages 100 tickets from traffic stops, a trooper needs to bring in 70 to remain in good standing.
"If I give too many breaks, if I fall below the 70 percent now my performance rating is lowered and now I have a post commander that's lowering his money he's got coming in," Tuer said. "Now I become a target."
And Tuer claims troopers are trained to target minorities, because they may be under-insured, under-licensed and impoverished, so they're less likely to get a lawyer to fight a traffic stop in court.
He also claims troopers search for drivers they can cite for multiple violations. Troopers call them "daily makers."
"Stop one guy get five tickets, bonus," Tuer said. "Go to jail, got time on my run sheet, bonus. Daily makers versus stopping five individuals that are probably cutting people off, that type of thing. One of them makes a complaint against me? I have to worry because my post commander is mad at me because my numbers haven’t met the requirements."
Michigan State Police blasted Tuer's allegations saying in a statement:
"... Strongly objects to any insinuation that there is institutionalized racism in our department. Troopers are not required to write a certain amount of traffic tickets. The areas subject to the 70% baseline evaluation are: fugitive arrests, investigative and patrol arrests, investigative and patrol complaints, traffic stops (not tickets)."
But Tuer says you cannot write a ticket without making a traffic stop and troopers and post commanders stand to profit from
"If you write more tickets you're going to get more court time and you can raise your base salary and retirement from $56,000 to now you've brought it up to $80,000. And now you're going to fall into that 60 percent or 65 percent depending on what the contract's at for each individual.
"What am I doing? I've incentivized writing tickets."
Trooper Tuer has been on administrative leave since October. He sent this email outlining these allegations to the Department of Civil Rights in February.
The enforcement and legal divisions of the Department of Civil Rights are reviewing his claims and could assign an investigator to look further into them.
Michigan State Police released this statement to FOX 2 regarding the allegations:
The Michigan State Police strongly objects to any insinuation that there is institutionalized racism in our department. Treating all persons professionally and with dignity and respect are core values for our agency. We categorically deny the claims made by Trooper Tuer.
Troopers, and all members of the MSP, are bound to follow our Official Orders that prohibit discrimination. Specifically, Official Order 1 reads “Members shall enforce the law equally and impartially without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, marital status, disability, social or economic status, partisan considerations, genetic information, or other category or group protected by law.”
The department has an activity analysis program wherein troopers’ activity is reviewed on a semi-annual basis. The purpose of the activity analysis is to provide feedback for troopers on their performance in core areas of their job duties and to provide a tool for supervisors to fairly evaluate performance as measured against their peers at the post. The areas subject to the 70% baseline evaluation are: fugitive arrests, investigative and patrol arrests, investigative and patrol complaints, traffic stops (not tickets), and OWI arrests. These are the core areas where troopers should be spending the majority of their time.
Troopers are not required to write a certain amount of traffic tickets. In fact, in 2015, the MSP conducted 405,270 traffic stops, of which only 171,219, or 42%, resulted in a traffic citation.
The activity analysis is one tool to measure the activities of troopers and is used with other information to determine the overall performance of each trooper as part of their annual performance review. If a trooper falls substantially below the 70% baseline, there are several avenues that may be used to improve performance. These include corrective action through affirmative assistance, which includes counseling, retraining, performance reviews, interim service ratings and discipline.
Trooper Tuer was not disciplined for making a complaint. His department-issued firearms, badge, and identification were secured pending a change in his leave status. In personnel matters like Trooper Tuer’s, department policy requires those pieces of department property be secured.