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Michigan Department of Civil Rights Files New Charges of Discrimination Against Grand Rapids Police Department

New charges are in addition to two filed against GRPD in July

Lansing, MI—The Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) has brought two new formal charges of discrimination against the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) in response to two separate complaints filed with the Department.

In complaints filed by Juanita Ligon on behalf of her two minor children, an impartial investigation conducted by MDCR found that the GRPD unlawfully discriminated against the claimants by treating them unequally based on race.

“As we said in July when we filed the first two complaints of discrimination against the GRPD we will continue to thoroughly and impartially investigate every complaint of discrimination filed with us by the residents of this community – complaints that in this case show that the police force charged with protecting these families instead discriminated against them,” said Johnson.

Complaints 490990 and 490991 allege unequal treatment because of race by the GRPD on August 26, 2018.  Police were dispatched following a 911 call about two kids walking near train tracks with what appeared to be a toy gun. Approximately three minutes later, an officer stopped two minor children, identified in the filing as MC-1, MC-2, and a third minor who were walking together about a half mile away from the location indicated in the 911 call. The officer’s in-car video demonstrates that all three boys complied with orders given by the police.

MC-1 and MC-2 identified themselves as being 11 years old and provided contact information for a parent. Despite their compliance, the boys were held at gunpoint by multiple officers, including one using a high-powered rifle. They were searched, handcuffed and questioned for approximately 20 minutes before ultimately being released into the custody of a grandparent who was called to the scene by concerned people in the neighborhood.

GRPD was unable to show evidence of White children who were similarly held at gunpoint, handcuffed, searched, placed in a squad car and questioned, in response to a 911 call and no allegation of a crime. The GRPD provided no evidence that they treat individuals of another race the same in similar circumstances.

Complaint Investigation and Resolution Process:

Michigan law prohibits discrimination in the areas of employment, education, housing, public accommodation, public service and law enforcement. The discrimination must be based on race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex, disability, genetic information, marital status, familial status, height, weight, and arrest record.

If a complaint of discrimination is filed on any of the areas and bases covered under law, and within 180 days of the incident, MDCR has jurisdiction and the complaint is assigned to an investigator.

During an impartial investigation, the claimant and respondent both have the opportunity to present evidence. MDCR attempts to resolve complaints at all stages of the investigation. If no settlement is reached, MDCR will complete the investigation and report on its findings. Possible outcomes include:

  • Dismissal: Insufficient evidence is found to support a discrimination charge.
  • Conciliation: If sufficient evidence of discrimination is found, MDCR will encourage the respondent to take action to address the discrimination and prevent it from happening again. If a satisfactory resolution is reached, the complaint is closed.
  • Charge: If sufficient evidence of discrimination is found, MDCR will encourage the respondent to take action to address the discrimination and prevent it from happening again. If a satisfactory resolution is reached, the complaint is closed. If sufficient evidence of discrimination is found and the respondent refuses to address the situation in conciliation, MDCR will issue a formal charge of discrimination and proceed administratively including scheduling a formal hearing.  An Administrative Law Judge will conduct a formal hearing on the discrimination charge. All witnesses testify under oath, the rules of evidence apply and all parties have the right to cross examine witnesses. The hearing officer will issue their recommendation on whether discrimination took place and what the appropriate penalty should be.
  • Commission Review: The Michigan Civil Rights Commission will review the proposed findings and allow parties to argue whether they should be adopted. The Commission will then issue a final determination and will either dismiss the case or find discrimination and issue corrective action that may include ordering monetary damages for the claimant.
  • Circuit Court Review: A claimant or respondent who does not agree with the Commission's final determination and order may appeal to the circuit court for review of the case.

Filing a discrimination complaint with the Department of Civil Rights does not prevent a claimant from taking legal action in a court of law.

Attached find the formal charge documents filed in response to the complaint filed by Juanita Ligon on behalf of two minor children.

Ligon v GRPD Charge RE MC-1
Ligon v GRPD Charge RE MC-2

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights is charged with investigating and resolving complaints of discrimination and working to prevent discrimination through educational programs that promote voluntary compliance with civil rights laws. The Department also provides training and services to government agencies, businesses, schools and organizations on diversity initiatives, fair housing and equal employment law. MDCR is the operational arm of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission (MCRC). Learn more about MDCR and MCRC at


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