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MI Supreme Court to hear Grand Rapids “print and photo” case

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents take fingerprints while processing apprehended immigration fugitives inside the ICE staging facility in Los Angeles on April 18, 2017.
Brian van der Brug
LA Times via Getty Images
The current policy allows officers to photograph and fingerprint people they want to question who don’t have an I-D. The issue is whether that amounts to an illegal search and seizure.

The Michigan Supreme Court has announced the cases it will hear during its November oral arguments. One is a civil rights challenge to a controversial Grand Rapids Police Department policy.

The plaintiffs in this combined case are two young African-Americans who were stopped, photographed and fingerprinted under the a city policy that allows police officers to do that when subjects they want to question don’t have IDs.

ACLU of Michigan attorney Dan Korobkin says that violates the 4th Amendment. And he says it’s typically been used against teens and minorities who are stopped, but never charged with anything.

“The issue here is why do the police really need to be out there on the street taking people’s photographs and fingerprints just on the side of the road?” he said.

“We don’t know of any other police department in Michigan that goes around taking people’s fingerprints and photographs on the side of the road like this, and it’s a serious invasion of people’s constitutional right to privacy.”

Korobkin says it’s a privacy violation because it leaves the department with a database of photos and fingerprints of people who’ve never been accused of a crime. A spokesman for the city said he was not able to comment on the case because he had only recently become aware of it.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.