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State’s top court will look at fingerprinting of Black teens

Michigan Supreme Court building photo
Subterranean via Wikimedia | CC BY 3.0

The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to look at two cases involving Black teenagers who were photographed and fingerprinted by Grand Rapids police but never charged with a crime.

The court will consider whether the actions violated the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. The Michigan appeals court in 2019 ruled in favor of the officers in civil lawsuits, based on other binding legal decisions.

The Supreme Court said Thursday it will hear arguments in the months ahead.

The incidents occurred in 2011 and 2012. Denishio Johnson was stopped after cutting through the parking lot of a fitness club where there had been vehicle thefts.

In the other, Keyon Harrison was stopped after handing a model train engine to someone. He said it was part of a school project. Johnson and Harrison were photographed and fingerprinted but not charged with crimes.

The American Civil Liberties Union said Grand Rapids had used the procedure on about 1,000 people per year.

The lawsuits were filed before a policy change in 2015. Grand Rapids police said fingerprints would be taken from people without ID only if their behavior was “highly suspicious.”