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Wednesday, December 15,2010

DWB 'unfounded'

The Michigan State Police calls three Lansing City Council members’ ‘driving while black’ allegations ‘unfounded’

by Andy Balaskovitz

On Aug. 3, Lansing City Council Vice President Kathie Dunbar, At-Large Councilman Derrick Quinney and Second Ward Councilwoman Tina Houghton were pulled over by Michigan State Police Trooper Ronald Courtley on Interstate 96.


Quinney was driving his 2009 brown Buick Enclave about 80 miles per hour with Houghton up front, Dunbar in back, en route to Detroit for Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero’s primary election victory party.


All three gave matching testimony to City Pulse — then the Michigan State Police — that they were pulled over because Quinney, a black man, was driving. That prompted an internal investigation by the state police into Courtley.


The result of that internal investigation?


“Unfounded,” state police spokeswoman Shannon Banner said. That meant no disciplinary action or sensitivity training for Courtley.


Banner would not comment further on the investigation. City Pulse has filed Freedom of Information requests for a copy of the investigation and Courtley’s disciplinary record.


Lt. Gene Kapp, who heard the Council members’ testimony and was interviewed in the Aug. 11 City Pulse story, also would not comment because he has since been relocated to the Michigan Intelligence Operation Center in Lansing. He was the commanding officer of Brighton Post No. 12, near where the incident took place.


Lt. Joel Allen, who has been commanding officer at Brighton since Oct. 31, said the investigation was closed by the time he started. He hasn’t read the details of the report.


Courtley was unavailable for comment.


So why would three Lansing City Council members falsely allege racial profiling on the part of a Michigan State Police trooper?


“I don’t know if they fabricated anything. I haven’t read the investigation. I haven’t spoke to the Council members or Trooper Courtley (about it),” Allen said.


Courtley, 43, was assigned to the Brighton post in August 2008, Allen said. Dunbar said he looks similar to the Swedish actor Hans “Dolph” Lundgren.


Dunbar and Quinney maintain their allegations are anything but unfounded, but they aren’t all that surprised by the report’s findings. Houghton did not comment on the matter.


“We certainly didn’t lie,” Quinney said. “Was I surprised (by the report)? No.”


Quinney added that the intent of his claim was not “drastic discipline” for Courtley. “I’m just asking for some sensitivity training — not a reprimand,” he said.


Dunbar conceded that it was their word against the state police’s, as there was no audio or video footage of the incident.


“It was definitely a he-said, she-said kind of thing,” Dunbar said. “Actually, more like a he-said, she-said, she-said and then a he-said thing.”


According to the Council members, the scene went down like this: While doing about 80 miles per hour near Howell on I-96, Courtley approached Quinney’s car from behind and passed, going an estimated 84 miles per hour, Quinney said.


Quinney veered right to let him pass without signaling a lane change. The Council members approached Courtley from behind about 10 miles later, nearing the Brighton exit. They were visible in Courtley’s rearview mirror for a few miles. To the Council members’ surprise, Courtley let them pass and then immediately pulled them over. Houghton has called this “bizarre and very strange.”


Courtley approached the car with a rude tone, they each said, and instead of asking for Quinney’s license and registration, he asked for all three licenses.


Courtley allegedly made a series of remarks to Quinney, like asking where they were going and why. He didn’t write Quinney a ticket for the unsignaled lane change and when Quinney thanked him for that, Dunbar said Courtley responded by asking, “What did you say?” Quinney replied with a “Thank you, sir,” and Courtley said, “That’s better.”


Though the investigation did not see things as they did firsthand, the Council members shake their heads about the incident and stand by their claims.

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