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Michigan Governor Announces Plans for Police Reform

Responding to national protests, Gov. Whitmer called for an increase in police training on implicit bias and de-escalation techniques as well as other measures to ensure safety and trust across the state.

(TNS) — As protests against police brutality continue across the state and nation in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis, Minn., police custody last month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has announced plans for police reform to promote racial equity in Michigan.

In a news release issued Wednesday afternoon, June 3, Whitmer announced her support for a series of policy plans, “calling on Michigan law enforcement agencies to enhance their training and policies to help create a police culture where all Michiganders are treated with dignity and respect under the law.”

Whitmer voiced her support for measures that require law enforcement officers to complete training on implicit bias and de-escalation techniques, and applauded the Senate for taking up Senate Bill 945, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, which addresses many of these issues, the release states. The governor also urged police agencies to require their officers to intervene when they observe an excessive use of force by another officer.

“The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor were a result of hundreds of years of inequity and institutional racism against Black Americans,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Here in Michigan, we are taking action and working together to address the inequities Black Michiganders face every day. That’s why I’m calling on Michigan police departments to strengthen their training and policies to save lives and keep people safe. I am also ready to partner with the Michigan Legislature and law enforcement officials to pass police reform bills into law.”

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II added in a statement, “We recognize the shortcomings of the systems in place today—systems that have left Black, Latino, and other communities of color feeling underserved, even threatened by law enforcement. People across Michigan have been calling for changes to police practices, and these actions are clear steps in the direction of needed reform. We are not done, and we strongly encourage cities and counties to adopt and enact local measures that build trust, accountability, and a comprehensive, non-discriminatory experience of safety for everyone in our state.”

Col. Joe Gasper, director of the Michigan State Police, said "the role and responsibility of police officers in our society is a great one; one in which our authority is derived from the trust and support of the people we serve."

“Our members take an oath to protect and serve all people, and in this time, we cannot stand on the outside looking in,” Gasper’s statement continued. “We must listen and take action, reviewing our policies and practices to work together to pave a path forward where everyone has a voice and all are treated equally as human beings.”

Below are the actions the governor is taking, as outlined in the release:

Requesting that the Michigan Commission of Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) provide guidance to law enforcement agencies on continuing education that will help officers keep up with the ever-changing landscape of new laws and issues facing the community, including diversity and implicit bias training.

Encouraging police departments to participate in efforts that are underway on comprehensive reporting on the use of force by police departments.

Urging law enforcement agencies to implement duty-to-intervene policies.

The governor applauded Southfield Police Chief Elvin Barren and Lansing Police Chief Daryl Green for their efforts in ensuring their officers intervene when an officer observes another officer doing something inappropriate or illegal.

Calling on the Legislature to act on SB 945, under which incoming law enforcement officers would be required by law to go through training on implicit bias, de-escalation techniques, and mental health screenings.

Officials say MSP has already taken action to reform policies that will ensure its members treat all Michiganders with dignity and respect. According to the release, MSP has already:

Created an Equity and Inclusion Officer position within the department.

Set a goal to increase the racial minority trooper applicant pool to 25 percent and the female trooper applicant pool to 20 percent, in an effort to diversify the department.

Established community service trooper positions to institute a community policing concept statewide.

Posted all non-confidential department policies online to increase transparency.

Implemented recurring implicit bias training for all enforcement members and assisted in the development and pilot of a nationwide implicit bias training for civilian personnel.

Generated a public-facing transparency web portal for Freedom of Information Act requests.

Revised the department’s pursuit policy to limit the circumstances in which MSP members can engage in a vehicle pursuit.

Whitmer says she has been committed to enacting criminal justice reforms since the day she took office. In April 2019, she signed an executive order to create the Michigan Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration, chaired by Gilchrist, which has reviewed the state’s jail and court data to expand alternatives to jail, safely reduce jail admissions and length of stay, and improve the effectiveness of the front end of Michigan’s justice system. The task force has produced a report and made recommendations that are awaiting action by the legislature.

And in January 2019, Whitmer signed Executive Order 2019-9, which requires each director of a state department and head of an autonomous agency to designate an Equity and Inclusion Officer to help strengthen non-discrimination protections for state employees.

More Support from Law Enforcement and Community Leaders

In addition to MSP director Gasper, several other law enforcement officers, elected officials and community leaders voiced support for Whitmer’s plans Wednesday.

“I strongly support requiring the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards re-examining, recruiting, hiring, training and retention requirements for Michigan’s police officers,” Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon said in a statement. “This examination is not only long overdue but it is absolutely imperative.”

“Police officers must have policies and training systems in place that encourage and mandate they take immediate action to intervene when observing any form of police brutality,” Lansing Police Chief Daryl Green said in a statement.

“We look forward to partnering with Gov. Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Gilchrist to reform the systemic racial inequities in this country,” Michigan Legislative Black Caucus Chair and Sen. Marshall Bullock, D-Detroit, said in a statement. “This is a time for rational thought and actions, exemplified by those using their voices and feet to march for justice and we look forward to working with leaders in the legislature to address these critical issues. Silence is no longer an option”

“Out of the fractured sadness, despair, and widespread anger at the tragic murder of George Floyd has arisen a powerful, united voice,” Detroit Caucus Chair and Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, D-Detroit, said in a statement. “We know that we can do anything when we do it together, so let’s keep talking and moving the arc to bend toward justice because the world is listening.”

“I am grieved by the murder of George Floyd and countless other Black men and women at the hands of police,” Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington said in a statement. “The outrage and hurt felt by members of our community is real. The City of Grand Rapids is committed to continuing to implement actionable steps to create change that leads to increased accountability, justice, and safety for all Grand Rapidians.”

©2020, Walker, Mich. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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