Racial inequity is
endemic in our criminal-justice system. And one key driver of those inequities
are so-called “pretext stops.” Pretext stops are made by police officers,
purportedly as a result of an observed traffic or ordinance infraction—but
where the officer is really seeking to uncover evidence that a civilian
possessed drugs or other contraband.
The data clearly shows
that Black motorists are significantly more likely to be the subject of pretext
stops than white people. Pretext stops are heavily associated with racial
profiling, which imposes severe harm on our community.
Accordingly, the Washtenaw
County Prosecutor’s Office will no longer prosecute contraband cases that arise
from “pretext stops.” Specifically, the Prosecutor’s Office will no longer
prosecute possession-of-contraband crimes that arise from a factual scenario
indicating that a police officer stopped a person for a minor infraction—but
where their real goal was to uncover evidence that a civilian possessed drugs
or other contraband.
This Policy does not apply to stops where an officer had legitimate reason to stop a civilian due to suspicion of a crime. Nor does it cover the prosecution of more serious crimes against persons or property. Rather, this Policy is being adopted in the hopes of minimizing the adverse effects that stem from being stopped by a police officer knowing that “the officer is looking for more.” See Utah v. Strieff, 136 S. Ct. 2056, 2069 (2016)(Sotomayor, J., dissenting).