Grand Rapids settled civil rights case that prompted a discrimination charges against the department

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The city of Grand Rapids has settled a civil rights case that prompted a formal discrimination charge against its police department.

It’s been one year since the Michigan Department of Civil Rights filed the charge over a January 2020 traffic stop in which Grand Rapids Police handcuffed and detained a woman over an expired driver’s license.

At its July 25, 2023, meeting, the Grand Rapids City Commission approved a settlement with Melissa Hughes, the driver who was pulled over on Eastern Avenue SE as she drove her teenage son and his friends home from a pizza place.

Under the settlement agreement, the city will pay Hughes $45,000.

In exchange, the former Grand Rapids resident has withdrawn the complaint she filed with the state’s civil rights watchdog.

“I settled because it’s been a three-and-a-half-year battle, and not knowing how much longer this was going to drag out,” Hughes told Target 8 in a Thursday interview via Zoom. “I just wanted it to stop, you know? I just want it to end.”

As a result of Hughes’ withdrawal, the administrative law judge overseeing the case against GRPD dismissed the charge levied by the state.

“I felt like what (the city) was willing to compensate was sufficient enough,” explained Hughes, noting she had rejected two initial offers for $5,000 and $10,000.

Hughes said it wasn’t initially clear to her that the settlement would require the withdrawal of her complaint.

Still, she believes her case, though settled, will have a positive impact on the battle for equal treatment by police.

That, she said, was the sole reason she reported the traffic stop to internal affairs and then, the state’s civil rights watchdog.

“I just knew I needed to stand up for the level of treatment I received,” said Hughes. “I didn’t understand why (the stop) warranted so many police officers,” explained Hughes. “I felt like I was targeted because of me being an African American woman with three black males in the car with me.”

In bodycam video released by GRPD after the case’s resolution, an officer approached Hughes’ car and explained the stop was due to an expired license plate.

“Yes, I’m going to deal with that on Monday,” Hughes told the officer, explaining she thought there was a ten-day grace period beyond the expiration date.

While the officer checked Hughes’s driver’s license in his cruiser, other officers watched her vehicle.

In turn, Hughes, who wore a Black Lives Matter hoodie, observed the police.

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