Human Trafficking Commission conducts first meeting of 2024

The Michigan Human Trafficking Commission held its first meeting of the year on January 29. The Commission, comprising seven new members beginning a term of service this year, including new chair of the Commission Assistant Attorney General Melissa Palepu, elected a vice chair and scheduled five further meetings for the year.  

Meetings of the Commission are held at the Williams Building at 525 W. Ottawa Street in Lansing and are accessible remotely via Microsoft Teams. The Commission invites survivors of human trafficking, advocacy groups, law enforcement partners, and members of the public to join their upcoming meetings scheduled for Wednesdays: March 27, May 22, July 31, September 25, and November 13.

“Partnerships continue to be critical in the work to end human trafficking,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “The Human Trafficking Commission is specifically comprised of
survivors, victim advocates, attorneys, and law enforcement agents who are working in lockstep on this issue. I am proud that Assistant Attorney General Melissa Palepu has been named to lead this Commission and am confident she will serve with the dedication and passion needed to fight this horrible crime.”  

The Michigan Human Trafficking Commision was created within the Department of Attorney General by statute, when the 2014 Human Trafficking Commission Act became law, and began operations in 2015. The Commission is comprised of 9 members appointed by the Governor, Attorney General, Michigan State Police, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.  

The Commission comprises the following members:

• Chair, Assistant Attorney General Melissa Palepu

• Vice Chair, Katie Papke, a survivor of human trafficking and advocate.

• Michael Draminski, Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

• Jeff Getting, Kalamazoo County prosecutor.

• Alice Johnson, survivor of human trafficking and advocate.

• Leslie King, a survivor of human trafficking and advocate.

• Judge Lisa McCormick, 30th Circuit Court, Ingham County.

• Ben O’Hearn, Migrant Legal Aid.

• Jonathan Walden, Michigan State Police.  

Palepu was appointed to the commission and named chair by Governor Gretchen Whitmer in December 2023. Palepu is an attorney specialist in human trafficking and child abuse, with the Michigan Department of Attorney General. Palepu previously served as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and was the General Counsel for the Wayne County Land Bank. She is an alumna of the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, where she earned her undergraduate degree in Political Science and History. She then received her law degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.  

In her current role with the Michigan Department of Attorney General, Palepu leads the charge in Human Trafficking and Child Abuse prosecutions. She also sits as a member of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, the Improving Outcomes for Child and Youth Victims of Human Trafficking Advisory Committee, and on the Human Trafficking of Children Protocol Revision Committee. Palepu is also a member of Shorewood Kiwanis and American Inn of Courts.  

“Human trafficking is a global crisis that affects our most vulnerable populations, including our youth,” said Palepu. “Human traffickers prey upon those most at risk, wielding power and control over their victims by brute force and mental and emotional torment. Human trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar world-wide industry that destroys families and communities. It is the hope of the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission, that by working together with the many incredible groups and agencies already working in the anti-human trafficking movement, that human trafficking can be forced from the shadows where it thrives and brought into the light where it can be exposed and eradicated.”

The mission of the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission as set forth by the 2014 Human Trafficking Commission Act includes:

• Identifying sources for grants that will assist in examining and countering human trafficking in this state and applying for those grants when appropriate.

• Funding research programs to determine the extent and nature of human trafficking in Michigan.

• Providing information and training regarding human trafficking to: Police officers, prosecutors, court personnel, health care providers, social services personnel, other individuals the commission considers appropriate

• Collecting and analyzing information regarding human trafficking in Michigan.

• Identifying state and local agencies within Michigan and other states, as well as within the federal government, that are involved with issues relating to human trafficking, and coordinating the dissemination of information regarding human trafficking in Michigan to those agencies.

• Reviewing existing services available to assist human trafficking victims, including crime victim assistance, health care, and legal assistance, and establishing a program to make those victims better aware of the services available to them.

• Establishing a program to improve public awareness of human trafficking.

• Reviewing existing state laws and administrative rules relating to human trafficking and making recommendations to the legislature to improve those laws and rules to address human trafficking violations in Michigan.

Additional information on the attorney general's human trafficking initiative, including prosecutions, and laws, is available at

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