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Community Advocacy Organization

Michigan Department of Civil Rights Files Charges in Two Discrimination Complaints Against the GRPD

Lansing, MI--The Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) has brought formal charges of discrimination against the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) in two separate complaints that were filed with the Department. In complaints filed by Whitney Hodges on behalf of her minor daughter, Honestie Hodges, and by Melissa Mason, MDCR’s investigation found that the GRPD unlawfully discriminated against the claimants by treating them unequally based on race. “Filing formal charges in these two cases is a significant step in our ongoing investigations into alleged discriminatory actions by the Grand Rapids Police Department,” said John E. Johnson, Jr., Executive Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. “We remain committed to conducting a thorough and impartial examination of the evidence in every complaint brought against the GRPD, working with the parties to reach settlements where we can, and taking complaints to charge when necessary.” The charges filed were in response to two complaints of discrimination by the GRPD. Complaint 610406, filed by Melissa Mason, was in response to a traffic stop on January 20, 2020. Officers of the GRPD stopped Mason, who is Black and was driving with three children, for an expired plate. Even though Mason was compliant with officers, she was removed from her car, handcuffed and placed under arrest in a police cruiser for approximately 20 minutes. In response to the investigation, GRPD was unable to demonstrate that people of another race in similar situations were treated the same as Melissa Mason. Complaint 485609 was filed by Whitney Hodges on behalf of her minor daughter Honestie Hodges, who is now deceased. The complaint alleged unequal treatment by GRPD of 11-year-old Honestie, who was Black, while police were in pursuit of a middle-aged White woman who matched the description of an attempted murder suspect on December 6, 2017. Officers pointed their weapons at Honestie and others as they exited a house under surveillance and placed her in handcuffs in a GRPD cruiser. As in the previously described complaint, GRPD was unable to show evidence that individuals of another race were treated 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 the 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 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 to the claimant.

  • Circuit Court Review: A claimant or responded 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. Click here to access the Request for Hearing document MDCR filed with the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings outlining MDCR’s findings and charges in response to the complaint filed by Melissa Mason. Click here for the Request for Hearing document outlining MDCR’s findings and charges in response to the complaint filed on behalf of Honestie Hodges. 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 www.michigan.gov/mdcr.

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