New Washtenaw Co. Prosecutor on major policy changes: 'It's not just business as usual'

Posted at 5:49 AM, Jan 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 06:59:01-05

(WXYZ) — Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit is enacting a slew of new progressive changes. This week, he introduced a third policy to crack down on racial profiling tied to traffic stops.

Other changes made in his first few weeks as prosecutor include eliminating the cash bail system, not prosecuting prostitution, and this week, a change in how traffic stop-related offenses are handled.

Related: Washtenaw County Prosecutor will no longer seek cash bail in any case

"We are looking at things differently. In my prosecutor's office, it is not just business as usual," Savit said.

Related: Washtenaw County Prosecutor won't pursue consensual sex-related charges

In less than three weeks on the job, Savit has enacted three policy changes, fundamental changes tied to policing and prosecution. The latest involves traffic stops.

Related: Washtenaw County prosecutor announces new policy to combat racial profiling

Savit directive says, "If a police officer pulls a driver over and the officer has no other reason to suspect a crime has been committed or that the car contains evidence of a crime, but they search the car with the driver's consent and they find minor low-level contraband, the prosecutor will not bring charges."

"The reason that's we're doing that is because we know from voluminous national and state-level data that Black people and people of color are disproportionately likely to be subject to this type of scrutiny and we want to send a message that we're not interested in cases that result from these kinds of stops and that have been heavily associated with racial profiling," he said.

Savit has a background as a civil rights attorney and said the goal is to discourage so-called fishing expeditions that lack probable cause and rebuild community trust in law enforcement.

Two other policy changes in Washtenaw County you may have heard of in recent weeks include not prosecuting consensual sex work and no longer relying on the cash bail system.

"We are looking to data. We are looking at the experience of other jurisdictions as to what works and we, in partnership with law enforcement, in partnership with judges on the benches, in partnership with the community, we are crafting policies that are based in data, that are focused on equity but that ultimately keep public safety front and center and that's what we all should want," he added.

Savit said not prosecuting prostitutes will empower them to come forward and freely report crimes.

Eliminating the cash bail system, he said, will make sure people in jail for non-violent offenses aren't simply held because they don't have enough money.