There is a growing consensus that the status quo in policing is unacceptable: among police officers, who find themselves at odds with the communities they have sworn to serve; among police officers, who struggle to attract new recruits; and among residents who resist brutal tactics and unfair treatment.
Universal revulsion at the death of George Floyd below the knee of a Minneapolis police officer spawned a nationwide movement for police reform. Now, a bipartisan group of state senators have introduced a set of 12 bills that address some of Michigan’s most pressing law enforcement challenges: ensuring police officers receive proper training, providing new tools and legal authority to eliminate bad cops police services that are more transparent and responsive to the citizens they serve.
At the state level, significant reform begins with the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, the state body that establishes curricula for interns, tests potential agents for s ensure they have learned the required information, issue and revoke licenses, and ensure that officers possess the physical form of the character.
But the commission encountered difficulties in carrying out its mandate. Its budget was cut during the Great Recession, and funding was not restored. Its ability to investigate agent violations is limited and its findings sometimes conflict with the results required by arbitration.
A Free Press survey in 2017 found that bad cops are too often moved from department to department because of leaders’ reluctance to risk arbitration. Due to the shortage of police officers, small departments have sometimes been willing to ignore offenses that should be disqualifying.
After the Free Press report, state lawmakers expanded the commission’s power to track down bad cops and revoke the licenses of those who committed crimes. Biparty legislation introduced this week goes further, requiring the commission to develop guidelines for the independent investigation of deaths involving officers, adding use of force violations to officer separation cases and expanding the list of offenses which trigger the revocation of a police license. .
Other invoices in the package:
Senate Bill 473, sponsored by Senator Roger Victory, R-Hudsonville, directs the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards to draft guidelines for the independent investigation of officer deaths and force the police to follow them.
Senate Bill 474, sponsored by Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, would require police separation records kept by MCOLES to include use of force violations.
Senate Bill 475, sponsored by Senator Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, gives MCOLES the power to revoke law enforcement licenses from officers who use excessive force causing death or grievous bodily harm
Senate Bill 476, sponsored by Senator Jim Ananich, D-Flint, would protect the identity of anyone who files a conduct complaint against an officer
Senate Bill 477, sponsored by Sen. Adam Hollier, D-Detroit, would allow police unions to deny representation to a member who files an unfounded grievance
Senate Bill 478, sponsored by Senator Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, would ban the use of chokes except when life is in danger
Senate Bill 479, sponsored by Senator Erika Geiss, D-Taylor, would ban most no strike warrants and create more clarity around “Knock and enter” mandates
Senate Bill 480, sponsored by Senator Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, would require officers to intervene when a colleague uses excessive force and authorize disciplinary action against those who do not intervene
Senate Bill 481, sponsored by Senator Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, would require police departments to establish a use of force continuum, issue verbal warnings before using force, and require officers to exhaust all possible alternatives before resorting to lethal force.
Senate Bill 482, sponsored by Senator Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, would require MCOLES to develop training standards on de-escalation, implicit bias and behavioral health, and would require continuing education for officers.
Senate Bill 483, sponsored by Senator Michael MacDonald, R-Macomb Twp., Would authorize MCOLES to commission a study examining barriers to recruiting and retaining highly qualified candidates for law enforcement positions
Hollier-sponsored Senate Bill 484 reportedly designates tampering with a body camera or disabling a camera to interfere with an investigation, as evidence of tampering
Senators Roger Victory, R-Hudsonville, and Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, Minority Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, deserve kudos for prioritizing this work, for recognizing that better policing will cost more money and for rallying support from both sides.
But while the bipartisan mix of sponsors behind the 12 bills is promising, there is no guarantee that the package will be delivered intact to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office.
Requests have multiplied on the left to redirect law enforcement funds to community investments. But increasing community investment and improving policing should not be mutually exclusive.
– Detroit Free Press