Advocacy group asserts there is racial disparity in Ferndale police traffic stops

Police chief disputes accusations of biased policing

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published September 1, 2023

 The Ferndale Police Department is the subject of a report from CAIR-MI that details what the organization calls “predatory policing” by the department.

The Ferndale Police Department is the subject of a report from CAIR-MI that details what the organization calls “predatory policing” by the department.

File photo by Deb Jacques


FERNDALE — On Aug. 17, the Council on American Islamic Relations Michigan Chapter, or CAIR-MI, released a report detailing what it calls “predatory policing” from the Ferndale Police Department.

During a press conference to accompany the report’s release, CAIR-MI reviewed its report, called “Lifting the Veil on Racial Profiling in Ferndale.” Amy Doukoure, staff attorney with CAIR-MI, stated that when the Ferndale Police Department makes traffic stops in other cities, 90% of those stops happen along the Eight Mile Road corridor.

“The city of Ferndale does not share an Eight Mile border with any city other than Detroit,” she said. “No cities other than Detroit. In fact, when you’re talking about Royal Oak Township, they pulled over the majority of people … on Eight Mile outside the city of Detroit in Royal Oak Township. One hundred percent of these citations that were issued and the stops that were made by the city of Ferndale Police Department in Royal Oak Township were made along the Eight Mile border.”

“Ninety percent of the stops that were made on Eight Mile were made inside the city of Detroit. … There’s definitively predatory policing going on,” Doukoure said.

According to the report, 11% of all citations issued by Ferndale police between Jan. 1, 2021, and Oct. 31, 2021, were issued to drivers located on the Detroit side of the Eight Mile Road border between Detroit and Ferndale.

Of Ferndale police encounters inside the Detroit border along Eight Mile, the report said 84% of citations were issued to Black motorists and 86% of arrests involved Black motorists. The report also stated that 75% of all stops initiated by Ferndale police in neighboring cities took place on Eight Mile and that 80% of all traffic stops initiated by Ferndale in neighboring cities took place in Detroit.

In 2021, CAIR-MI filed a notice of claim on behalf of Helena Bowe, an African American Muslim woman, after Ferndale police compelled her to remove her hijab during the booking process, a violation of what CAIR-MI said was her constitutional rights.

CAIR-MI stated that Bowe was driving eastbound on Eight Mile Road and was stopped in Detroit — without having driven through Ferndale — on the claim that her license plate tags might have expired or were improper, which was later dropped.

CAIR-MI filed three Freedom of Information Act requests with the city of Ferndale to get copies of all citations, warnings and police reports associated with the city’s Police Department pertaining to motorist stops inside Detroit city limits on Eight Mile Road, as well as similar information pertaining to traffic stops from bordering municipalities, including Royal Oak Township, Hazel Park, Royal Oak and Pleasant Ridge.

“Based upon the analysis of data from Ferndale’s Transparency Dashboard as well as information obtained from FOIA, it is clear that Ferndale Police disproportionately ticket and arrest Black motorists within the city limits of Detroit as well as inside of its own city limits,” the report states.

As a result of its findings, CAIR-MI called for the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division to launch an investigation “regarding the seeming pattern of racial profiling by Ferndale Police Department of motorists of color, Black motorists in particular, and to impose measures upon the department to remedy the discriminatory intent and/or the discriminatory impact of Ferndale’s Police Department policies and practices if comprehensive findings lead to the conclusion that there has been a violation of motorists’ civil rights”

It also called for an independent firm to conduct an investigation into Ferndale’s policing practices pertaining to traffic stops and arrests from them, in particular on Eight Mile Road.

“The Ferndale Police Department doesn’t need to be policing Eight Mile on eastbound motorists who don’t even drive through the city of Ferndale,” Executive Director Dawud Walid said. “This is just one little, small remedy that would help with this particular issue. It would have stopped the issue of our client that we ended up having to sue the city of Ferndale about, which the city of Ferndale settled that case, because she was driving eastbound Eight Mile without ever having driven through the city of Ferndale.”

Police Chief Dennis Emmi told the Woodward Talk that the statistics presented in the report are out of context and open to interpretation, but he does not believe that their officers are policing with any type of bias.

“We do routine fair and impartial policing audits of our staff on a monthly basis, looking for specifically biased policing or evidence of biased policing and other policy violations, be it conduct or safety or other policy issues, and we address those as we see them,” he said.

“It’s important to reiterate that there’s allegations that are simply not true and if they had done any type of research, it would have been obvious,” he continued. “We are not policing outside our jurisdiction. We’re not overreaching at all. Our borders in some cases go up to 7 feet of the south curb. That means we’ll pass the median, in some cases three lanes of the eastbound side of Eight Mile. And statute supports policing on both sides. It’s our responsibility to have a presence on Eight Mile. The speeds when you’re not enforcing the highway, they get dangerous, and without a presence on Eight Mile, I’m afraid that that would become even more dangerous. So in policing, it’s important to have a presence on the highways to keep driving under control.”

Reiterating that Ferndale is an accredited police department through the Michigan Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission, he said the department would open its doors to the Department of Justice if it is interested.

“I just think that it’s irresponsible in portraying these numbers as they stand as evidence of biased policing,” he said. “I think it’s a byproduct of where our city is situated. We’re right on the border of Detroit. We have a low minority population. Detroit has a high minority population, and it makes sense that the eight-lane highways that traverse our community are comprised of a completely different demographic than our community is comprised of.”

Emmi said Ferndale is committed to transparency and that the statistical breakout is not in itself evidence of biased policing.

“Statistics are what they are,” he said. “We know that we’re transparent and we’ll put them out there, but we put faith in our training, we put faith in our processes, and we know that we are supervising and holding ourselves accountable. That’s truly how I feel and I know that our city government …  they know exactly what our core values are and that we are holding ourselves to a high standard.”