Yesterday, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) and counsel Janey Lanier filed an amicus brief in the Michigan Supreme Court in support of Keyon Harrison and Denishio Johnson, two Black teenagers who, on separate occasions, were stopped, interrogated, searched, photographed, and fingerprinted by the Grand Rapids Police Department even though neither teen committed any offense. The case challenges the Grand Rapids Police Department’s official policy of taking photographs and collecting fingerprints of people who are stopped and lack identification, even if they are never charged with a crime, and then storing their information for future use is unconstitutional. The Department’s long-standing policy has been disproportionally used in interactions and field interrogations with the City’s Black residents.
LDF’s brief notes that discretionary policies, like the Grand Rapids Police Department’s photograph-and-print policy, that afford law enforcement officers unfettered enforcement power typically resulting in disparate encroachments on Black people’s Fourth Amendment rights. Beyond the grave constitutional harms to individual citizens are serious and systemic harms to society, including the undermining of community trust in law enforcement, the denial of full citizenship to Black people, and the erosion of public confidence in the rule of the law.
“Across the country, law enforcement routinely encroaches on the constitutional rights of Black communities and subjects these communities, and other communities of color, to racially disparate policing that anticipates their future criminality,” said LDF’s John Payton Appellate and Supreme Court Advocacy Fellow Mahogane Reed. “The harms that discriminatory policing has on communities of color is once again illustrated in Grand Rapids, where officers routinely stop, interrogate, and collect information on Black people who did nothing wrong. It is critical for the Court to forcefully prohibit this unconstitutional and disparately applied police practice.”
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization. LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.