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By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
The Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) is investigating 23 complaints of racial discrimination against the Grand Rapids
Police Department (GRPD).
“We have an obligation under law to neutrally investigate all complaints of discrimination that fall under our jurisdiction,” MDCR
Director Agustin V. Arbulu said. “In addition to investigating each complaint on its individual merits, we will be reviewing the complaints
from a broader perspective to see if there is evidence of a pattern and practice of systemic discrimination.”
The GRPD is accused of racial profiling and using excessive force, while arresting suspected offenders.
Two Latino teens were arrested at gun point for walking in the street, instead of using the sidewalk, during one incident that took
place last March in freezing weather.
Frigid temperatures prompted the teens to put their gloveless hands into their coat pockets. The teens repeatedly asked the officer
why he was stopping them. They said that they weren’t doing anything and attempted to walk away. The officer then pulled his gun out and aimed it directly at the teens. He demanded that they put their hands on top of their head to be handcuffed and ordered them to lie on the cold ground.
“Lay on the ground,” shouted the officer while pointing his gun at the teens, as two other officers walked up. “He’s under arrest for failed to ID, and he keeps reaching for his waistband.”
On another incident last March, an African American man was pulled over during a traffic stop. His young child was strapped in a car seat in the rear.
When the man refused to roll down his window and to give the officer his driver’s license, the officer shouted profanity, broke his window, opened the door, dragged him out of the vehicle and punched him over 30 times in his leg.
A nearby resident captured the incident on video.
“After reviewing the videos and reading the reports, I have strong concerns over the actions of an assisting officer on scene,” Interim GRPD Chief David Kiddle said. "I do not doubt that the driver needed to be arrested and it is clear he would not willingly be taken into custody. But to that end, it appears that one officer was quick to escalate the situation beyond the point that was necessary to affect the arrest and gain compliance.”
Over 80 Grand Rapids residents voiced concerns during two community meetings with the MDCR. Some submitted their complaints in writing.
“While the number of complaints alone does not indicate discriminatory patterns and practices at play, we do believe, and I mean this, we do believe they warrant a thorough investigation,” Arbulu said. “We want to be thorough, and we can’t predict the outcome. Our concern is in the future, that discriminatory practices be retracted or be stopped, and new policies to address these practices be put in place, if that is found to be the case.”
The Michigan Department of Civil Rights, the operational arm of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, is charged with investigating and resolving discrimination complaints and working to prevent discrimination through educational programs that promote voluntary compliance with civil rights laws. The Department also provides information and services to businesses on diversity initiatives and equal employment law. For more information on the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, go to www.michigan.gov/mdcr.
State to investigate Grand Rapids police for discrimination and using excessive force
Former NBA referee commits foul against college players,
faces five years in prison
By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
A former NBA referee admitted to committing a serious foul off of the court.
Rahsan Michel recently pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and faces up to five years in prison.
Michel, 44, was an NBA referee from 1997-2001. Following his basketball career, he opened a clothing business in Atlanta that made bespoke suits for professional athletes. He admitted to accepting payments from Chuck Connors Person, a financial adviser and a former Auburn University men’s basketball coach. Michel influenced college basketball players to utilize Person’s services, when they turned professional. The transactions took place from Sept. 2016 to Sept. 2017.
“As he admitted, Rashan Michel was paid to facilitate bribe payments from a financial adviser to college basketball coaches. His corruption of the system was significant but, sadly, far from unique,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said. “Indeed, in the last year this Office has convicted nine defendants in connection with fraud or bribery in the world of college basketball. We will continue to pursue those who offer or take bribes to influence student-athletes without regard to their interest.”
The scheme also included Louis Martin Blazer, who testified as a witness for the FBI and admitted to paying up to thousands of dollars to family members of football players from Pittsburg, Penn State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Northwestern, North Carolina and Alabama to sign with Person.
Blazer also paid Michel tens of thousands of dollars for introducing him to Person and other basketball coaches.
Michel was paid $24,000 for his role in the scheme. Person received over $91,500.
As a condition of his plea, Michel agreed to give up $24,000. Sentencing is scheduled for September 18, before U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska.
Auto insurance examination to strenghten consumer protections
and protect motorists wallets
LANSING, Mich.-- This month Governor Gretchen Whitmer directed the Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) to examine and report on two specific aspects of auto insurance rates in Michigan: the use of non-driving factors to set rates and the pricing of coordinated policies.
“Michiganders continue to pay the highest auto insurance rates in the nation and are feeling the pressure of those rates,” said Whitmer. “I’m committed to using the power of my office to increase transparency, strengthen consumer protections, and better determine how we can provide relief to motorists.”
Currently, insurers may, with some limitations, use non-driving factors to determine insurance premiums. These factors can include education, home ownership, occupation, credit scoring factors, and in some cases gender and marital status. Additionally, auto insurers can offer coordinated policies to drivers with health insurance as their primary policy, which lowers the risk to the auto insurers. The law, however, requires insurers to lower auto insurance premiums for coordinated policies to account for this reduced risk.
“Auto insurance rates must be fair and reasonable,” Whitmer added. “We must take a hard look at how auto insurers are setting rates to ensure these practices are lawful and to determine how we can achieve complete and lasting reform for Michiganders.”
According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan, Michigan drivers pay nearly twice as much as drivers in other states for auto insurance, with the average premiums reaching $2,600. Moreover, that number pales in comparison to the amounts paid by Detroit residents, who pay $5,414 in insurance premiums each year.
“Drivers deserve to understand how auto policies are priced so that they can make informed decisions,” Anita Fox said, who serves as director of DIFS. “Governor Whitmer’s order to examine these issues will provide greater transparency, identify possible avenues for administrative action, and shed further light on the need for legislative reform.”
Under this directive, DIFS will use its broad powers to identify what specific non-driving factors insurers are using and how those factors are being applied, and make recommendations for legislation, rulemaking or other measures as appropriate to ensure compliance and protect consumers. As part of this examination, DIFS will also review the use of “price optimization” techniques, which employ consumer data to measure consumers’ anticipated resistance to increased premiums.
In addition, DIFS will examine how insurance companies are determining whether coordinated auto insurance policies have “appropriately reduced” premiums, as required under Michigan Law. As part of this review, the department will consider any necessary actions to ensure compliance with this requirement.
Previously, Gov. Whitmer requested that DIFS conduct an audit into the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) after the board voted to impose an additional fee increase of $28 on drivers, which is added to a driver’s insurance premium, bringing the total fee to $220 per vehicle.
Under the new directive, DIFS will begin the examination immediately and produce a report as soon as possible.