Grand Rapids police discriminated against Black residents, civil rights department charges 

Police in the Michigan city where Patrick Lyoya was shot and killed by an officer are facing the charges based on two other cases.

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Police in Grand Rapids, the Michigan city where 26-year-old Patrick Lyoya was shot and killed by an officer earlier this year, have been hit with a pair of formal discrimination charges stemming from complaints lodged by two Black residents in separate incidents — one in 2017 and another in 2020, according to the Detroit Free Press. 

The executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights announced last week that the charges are the result of complaints against the Grand Rapids Police Department related to two high-profile incidents. 

The Grand Rapids Police Department has been charged by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights with discrimination stemming from a pair of complaints. The charges are not criminal but could bring penalties. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

In the earlier case, an 11-year-old Black girl named Honestie Hodges was handcuffed and detained by GRPD officers who were searching for a suspect in a stabbing. Internal investigations cleared the officers of any wrongdoing, but the girl can be seen in body camera footage handcuffed and crying as officers tell her she is not being arrested. 

Her mother, Whitney Hodges, told the Free Press in 2017 that the incident left her daughter mentally scarred. Honestie died in 2020 at 14 due to complications from COVID-19. 

Whitney Hodges filed a formal complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. Marcelina Trevino, director of enforcement at MDCR, said the department was unable to show that individuals of a different race were treated in the same manner as Honestie. 

In a separate case, Melissa Mason, who is Black, filed a complaint after being detained and handcuffed following a traffic stop for an expired license plate. That incident occurred during the coronavirus pandemic in the presence of her three children. 

An investigation launched in 2019 by the MDCR delved into whether the Police Department “engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination” in its policing, the Free Press reported, but a lack of resources led to its halt.

“The city of Grand Rapids is committed to ensuring all people are treated equally under the law and has been fully cooperative and engaged with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) since at least May 2019 when investigations began,” a city spokesperson told the news outlet in a statement. 

“The City intends to respond and attend all hearings as provided by the MDCR administrative rules,” they continued, “and looks forward to presenting relevant facts to the Commission.”

The charges are not criminal but will be considered by an administrative law judge at a hearing where witnesses will testify about the formal complaints, a decision will be made on whether bias occurred, and a penalty may be assessed. 

Per the Free Press, the Grand Rapids officer who killed Lyoya in April, Christopher Schurr, has been charged with second-degree murder. Discussions between state and federal agencies probing Lyoya’s death are underway and no rights complaint has been filed in the case, according to MDCR. 

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