Michigan Democrats push to open police disciplinary files, limit immunity

Michigan lawmakers are trying to find consensus on a range of reforms intended to curb police violence and hold departments more accountable for officers’ actions.

Democratic lawmakers plan to introduce a sweeping set of police reforms to increase accountability and transparency in the state’s law enforcement agencies, members of Michigan’s Black and Detroit Caucuses announced Wednesday during a press conference. 

The package aims to change policing in Michigan to address racial inequities and police violence, which have been the focus of state- and nationwide protests since late May, when the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked calls for change. 

The proposals — announced by Democratic Reps. Tenisha Yancey, Sarah Anthony, Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, Brenda Carter, Jewell Jones and Tyrone Carter — range from ending qualified immunity for police officers who use excessive force to barring facial recognition technology and requiring all disciplinary records to be retained and made publicly available. 

“We're gathered here because of our commitment to enacting significant change that will one day ensure the laws and systems in our state treat everyone with fairness and dignity, the dignity that they deserve,” said Anthony of Lansing. “Change that addresses systemic racism and injustice that we see all around us... The time for action is now.”

It remains unclear which, if any, of the proposals will get a hearing in the Michigan Legislature, where both chambers are controlled by Republicans. Though one of the Democrats said Wednesday that the House Speaker has taken steps to meet privately with the caucuses to begin conversations. 

The Democrats said the first package will be introduced over the next month. 

Among the proposals: 

  • Ending “qualified immunity” for police officers who use excessive force. Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that often shields officers from prosecution for constitutional violations. 
  • Prohibiting the use of facial recognition technology, which has been controversial in Detroit and elsewhere as critics say it contributes to over-policing and civil rights violations — people of color are more likely than white people to be misidentified by such technology — while proponents argue it helps curb crime. 
  • Banning chokeholds or other pressure on a person’s neck — which lead to Floyd’s death — along with a ban on no-knock warrants, an issue in the killing of Louisville EMT Breonna Taylor, whose death is also a focus of recent protests. An anti-chokehold bill has also been introduced by a Senate Republican. 
  • Requiring citizen review boards in every community, a panel staffed by non-police officers who oversee local law enforcement agencies. Detroit and Grand Rapids are among the Michigan cities that already have review boards. 
  • Establishing “crisis intervention teams” staffed by social workers and mental health specialists who are often better equipped than police to handle calls involving residents experiencing mental health issues. 
  • Requiring officers statewide to wear body cameras. 
  • Requiring law enforcement agencies to establish “early intervention systems” that identify officers with high rates of use of force and misconduct complaints and correct or discipline their behavior. 

“There is no accountability. Officers act with impunity, their actions are going to be covered. We have to peel that back so everybody understands that they are there to serve and protect,” said Tyrone Carter of Detroit, who worked for the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office for more than 25 years before becoming a lawmaker. 

The packages will also include a number of proposals similar to those recommended by Democratic Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel in June, including the creation of an independent agency for investigating and prosecuting cases of excessive force and requiring police departments to retain disciplinary records and make them publicly available. Right now, disciplinary records are periodically purged in many agencies. 

Related:

Gay-Dagnogo of Detroit said Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, invited the Legislative Black and Detroit Caucuses to a private meeting and later a meeting with the GOP caucus three weeks ago to talk about issues related to race. The conversation was “well-received,” Gay-Dagnogo said, including with former law enforcement officers who work in the GOP caucus. 

“We’re looking for a path forward to ensure that we can get some of the bills through the House and the Senate. That will take compromise and more conversations of working together,” Gay-Dagnogo said. “The Speaker has given me that commitment (that he will work to find common ground)... And so we're looking forward to keeping him at his word.”

Chatfield’s office could not immediately be reached for comment. Senate GOP spokesperson Amber McCann told Bridge via email that neither the Senate Republican Caucus nor Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey is aware of the proposals announced Wednesday. 

Law enforcement advocates said the package would duplicate some policies that are already in place. 

For example, every sheriff’s office in Michigan reports use-of-force incident rates to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is now made public; excessive force is not covered by qualified immunity; and there are standardized guidelines for use of force, said Matthew Saxton, executive director of the Michigan Sheriff’s Association. 

“One bad actor is too many and I hope we don’t see another one. But it’s more than police reform, it’s criminal justice reform. Systemic racism is not just in law enforcement, it’s all over our society,” Saxton said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do still in this country, but we’ve come a long way as well.”

Robert Stevenson, executive director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, agreed that some of the caucuses’ proposals are already addressed in law, some his group is lobbying for as well — such as police partnerships with mental health workers — and some he’d need more information on. 

“We look forward to being invited into the conversation to offer our insight and advice before any legislation is proposed,” he said.

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Comments

jonsnana
Thu, 07/09/2020 - 9:00am

How about this? Let's open up all disciplinary files of all journalists, teachers, lawyers, doctors, community organizers, mayors, governors, congressmen and women, senators, electricians, street sweepers and gardeners, just so we know that this is not a revenge move.

middle of the mit
Thu, 07/09/2020 - 5:15pm

When those professions are accused en mass of violating peoples rights to due process and a speedy trial by a jury of their peers, we can talk about that.

I don't really think that "privileged immunity" extends to any of those professions the way it does with police officers.

Not revenge, responsibility.

A Yooper
Thu, 07/09/2020 - 2:28pm

These police reforms make perfect sense to me. None of them impede police officers from performing their duties, namely protecting us... and them as well.

Rick
Thu, 07/09/2020 - 3:49pm

Yes. It's supposed to be 'Protect & Serve' and that seems to have morphed over the years into 'Brutalize & Obstruct Justice'.
I used to know a lot of Law Enforcement folks and they were basically like the rest of us and pretty mellow. Then over the years they became like an occupying army with a 'them & us' attitude where they could do what they wanted with no accountability. Seeing the Minneapolis Police shove down that old guy and then ignore him was pretty unbelievable. And the response from the police and police union was even worse.
Things have gotten out of control - on the police side.

duane
Sun, 07/12/2020 - 10:08am

All I hear about is the failings/flaws/disappointments in police actions, I never read about police actions that are successes. I read/hear about how bad the police do, but I never read/hear what police do right. When was the last/first anyone read in Bridge about what a successful police intervention looks likes, which departments are doing them? I consider Bridge one of the least flamboyant 'news' reporting outlets and yet when do they report to their readers about successful police departments, when do they report to readers what police success looks like so we can learn about the practices we should expect?
The reality is if you are only told about failure, you will only learn to look for failure, and you will only find failure because that is all you will know.
It is sad in all this turmoil there is no one with direct access to the public has made the effort to report how a proper and effective police intervention should look like and what our actions should be, as a person being intervened with, as a bystander, as someone involve in an incident, as a community resident, etc. I wonder why that isn't meaningful enough to be given space on an electronic page.

middle of the mit
Sun, 07/12/2020 - 5:21pm

It's almost like what happened with teachers and the UAW, isn't it?

duane
Mon, 07/13/2020 - 5:47pm

middle,
Much like the teachers. When you mention UAW, are you talking United Ways activity for retirees call UNited After Work, if so I would agree they even the United Way does seem to know how to recognize their successes and creativity.
If it is the United Auto Works, then I am not so sure, they seem to still promote themselves on what there members suffer on the 'overpass' and what they were doing 70 or 80 years ago. I wonder how they are helping their member employers be more competitive in today's world, or how they are educating their members to be more efficient or effective or to be safer. Maybe it is because I don't have the contact with the UAW as I did years ago.

middle of the mit
Tue, 07/14/2020 - 1:30pm

[[[When you mention UAW, are you talking United Ways activity for retirees call UNited After Work, if so I would agree they even the United Way does seem to know how to recognize their successes and creativity.]]]

duane,

Are you really this dense? Here, let me explain seeing as how you can't seem to remember what happened during the right-to-work legislation. Teachers and auto workers were denigrated in the exact way that you mentioned in your original post. No one stood up for the good workers, they lambasted them with and amplified ACTUAL urban and rural legends, but left the police union to be forced to make UNCONSTITUTIONAL FORCED DUES.

And those cops didn't stand with the teachers or the workers.

And yet here you are blaming the workers unions. What has the police union done to promote better practices?

It is time you put your talking points and turn them toward the people you defend. I think I know why you don't though.

Willing to admit you like to pass the buck to lowest level on the totem pole yet?

It seems that is the only way trickle down economics works.

duane
Tue, 07/14/2020 - 5:52pm

I prefer the people directly engage the activity of concern are active participants in developing the best practices. I would like to see a small group of police [2], criminals [2], people [not criminals, 'innocents' for lack of a better work][2], residents [2], a facilitator [1] part of a structured conversation about the best practices for a police action. I want knowledgeable people, not system functionaries, constructing what would make a desire intervention action.
Where you want to draw in an old political phrase ['trickle down'], I believe it is better to use the knowledgeable resources closest to the problem.

middle of the mit
Wed, 07/15/2020 - 12:34pm

I believe it is better to use the knowledgeable resources closest to the problem.////

I believe you are bloviating and seem to have no stand on anything except that you can obtusely define what you want but when pushed for answers, you fall short of being able to explain specifically what it is you are asking for and why the private or public entities that you love haven't done the things that you say the Government should have done for them or helped them accomplish.

Also, it seems as though you have never heard Republican talking points or what they mean. Unless you are playing dumb.

When you can keep the conversation on the point at hand instead of obfuscating and changing the subject, maybe we could continue this back and forth.

duane
Thu, 07/16/2020 - 12:55pm

middle,
I try to give you the broadest description/application of the principles/practices I have learn to offer you an opportunity use what you are most confident with to ask questions about how what I am talking about would apply.
I am willing to describe how what I offer would apply, I have even got to the level of who should be on a team investigation a problem, and yet you make no effort to ask why and how that would work or offer how and why it wouldn't work. You have shown time and again when I begin down a path of specifics you quickly loss interest, so why should I invest the effort.
You seem to project a personality, an independent judgement and motivation for action to organizations such as private and government. The reality is that organizations are made up of individuals, and those individuals make choice [personally motivated choices], the best anyone outside those organizations can do is offer ideas, means/methods they can't make them act. If you consider the President of the United States the most powerful in the world, look at how little he can force people in the various agencies to act in accord with his expectations. All I have found is to offer the ideas, the means/methods, and hope someone with interest will follow through.
With regards to fines, if one was most interested in changing practices then the fines that were never levied are probably the most effective.
As for the Republican and Democrat talking points, I have little interest for they are composed outside the heat of the moment. Watch the evening news and you will see what they are actually doing and for me that is more important than what they say in a prepared statement.
What topic, that this in the article or my comment to the article. My original comment here was two if all you do is condemn and try to play "i Gotcha' with the police or anyone all you will get is confrontation and disappointment, all the political claims of transparency are to make it easier to play 'I Gotcha.' If you want success, you identify success and promote it so all can see it and recognize and have something to emulate. This would apply to teachers. As for the UAW they have a different function that serving the public. And if the topic is who stands with whom, you are delusional, each group is different, in their purpose, in their problems, in the way to effectively address those problems. I have worked in both bargained for facilities and non-bargained for facilities, the most effective I found was the non bargained for because the people [technicians in this case] were better able to leverage their access the management structure, the bargained for had a specific structure for voicing concerns which created layers before the formal complaint would be addressed. The next most effective was where the officers of the unions work in the plant on shift and were personally involved with the whole [the operations and the problem and the people] of the situation.
I am surprised that the unions for each of the groups you mention do take a lesson from private companies that do 'brand' [not product] advertising where they talk about how effective their culture and people are, about how individuals do special things for their communities. Why shouldn't the police unions touting the successful practices that members are doing around the country, why aren't teachers unions promoting the impact their members are having, the creativity/innovations they apply in their classrooms, the added value [above the basic knowledge of the subject] their students? Who better to know about the successes than the unions and yet you seem to believe that others should be doing their work.

middle of the mit
Thu, 07/16/2020 - 9:47pm

[[[[I try to give you the broadest description/application of the principles/practices I have learn to offer you an opportunity use what you are most confident with to ask questions about how what I am talking about would apply.]]]]

Yeah, I know. WE need specifics. Not broadly unquantified talking points that could only exist in your and Ayn Rands objectivist newsletter.

[[[[. You have shown time and again when I begin down a path of specifics you quickly loss interest, so why should I invest the effort.]]]]

Because all you offer is retreaded conservative talking points, that if they worked, we wouldn't be in the position we are now.

See duane, you asked me if I was a progressive. And I have willingly described myself as a progressive, liberal democrat. Because I may as well accept what conservatives will call me. I have also said I am an Anti-conservative. IF conservatism goes back to Dwight D Eisenhower? Who knows?

[[[The reality is that organizations are made up of individuals, and those individuals make choice [personally motivated choices], the best anyone outside those organizations can do is offer ideas, means/methods they can't make them act. ]]]

What are you talking about? Corporations are about one thing and one thing only........profit. And that is their singular goal. It IS the corporation acting in accordance to the corporate charter. Acting in unison for one singular goal.

The rest of your statement? Exactly what I have been trying to tell you. Regulation comes AFTER THE FACT, and YES they can. Why do you think business complains about the cost of rules and regulations?

[[[[ If you consider the President of the United States the most powerful in the world, look at how little he can force people in the various agencies to act in accord with his expectations. ]]]

If the President of the United States isn't the most powerful person in the World, one, it's because of the way the current President has ostracized our allies and coddled tyrants. Second, the US should no longer use that as a describer or OUR President.

[[[ All I have found is to offer the ideas, the means/methods, and hope someone with interest will follow through.]]]

What ideas have you offered that would actually work? You forget that this isn't a third world country. We have been the World leader for longer than I have been alive, and so have our businesses, yet they continue to want less regulation. Be glad you don't live in China where OUR manufacturers went. They wear masks just to get away from the smog.

[[[With regards to fines, if one was most interested in changing practices then the fines that were never levied are probably the most effective.
As for the Republican and Democrat talking points, I have little interest for they are composed outside the heat of the moment. ]]]

But aren't you the one that doesn't want to assign blame to anyone? And aren't you the one that complained about how regulations are only designed to extract money from corporations?

Ahhh............no. Republicans and Dems wait until the heat of the moment is passed. Then they construct talking points. Talking points aren't necessarily bad, unless they are designed to further harmful legislation toward the citizens. It is the citizens that the Country is supposed to work for, isn't it? OR does the country only have to worry about what business wants?

I don't play gotcha. I play if your going to say something.....STAND BEHIND IT!

[[[ I found was the non bargained for because the people [technicians in this case] were better able to leverage their access the management structure, the bargained for had a specific structure for voicing concerns which created layers before the formal complaint would be addressed. ]]]

So you stand behind professionals who don't really need collective bargaining....do they? If your technicians include engineers? I, as someone who had to make those parts and fix the vehicles in which they have designed? They fail to design something that can be efficiently repaired!
And they don't care if you make suggestions.

[[[I am surprised that the unions for each of the groups you mention do take a lesson from private companies that do 'brand' [not product] advertising where they talk about how effective their culture and people are, about how individuals do special things for their ]]]

Just like a teacher asks........show your work. Show us the evidence. That is ALL I ask for.

[[[Why shouldn't the police unions touting the successful practices that members are doing around the country, why aren't teachers unions promoting the impact their members are having, the creativity/innovations they apply in their classrooms, the added value [above the basic knowledge of the subject] their students? ]]]

Uhhh, have you been seeing what has been happening the last few months?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/police-keep-using-force-against-...

https://www.vox.com/2020/5/31/21275994/police-violence-peaceful-proteste...

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/01/george-floyd-viole...

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/long-painful-hist...

Can you show me the same in regards to teachers or the UAW? (you do know which UAW I am talking about...don't you?)

[[[Who better to know about the successes than the unions and yet you seem to believe that others should be doing their work.]]]

Who said that and where can you point to where I said that?

You are the one that doesn't worker unions, but has no problem with corporate paper people having association that States and Countries have to succumb to with tax breaks, tax deferrals and all other sorts of gimmicks.

When corporations are just as, if not more powerful than Governments, Who holds them accountable for what they do?

Oh that's right! In your ideal world.................

NOBODY.

duane
Fri, 07/17/2020 - 5:23pm

middle,
I am not as creative as want to believe, what I offer is only from experience and what has been put into practice.
If you listen to what I was saying, it was about those who are elected to union office, they create the procedural layer that isolate their members from the formal company structure. It is layers that prevent personal interactions on problems/concerns. When I was describing the difference in effectiveness, I was sharing observations of actual experiences. If you had been listening you would have realize that I had worked in those settings and you would be asking about why and how and even what gave me those impression. You would have learned that the more structure a contract and the procedures with the union the easier it is for a supervisor with poor skills to hid and avoid accountability, that the less structure more visible individuals become. The less formal the administrative structure the more autonomous each individual becomes, the system is allowed to be flatten with more authority placed deeper into the organization, but that also makes the results more visible and so the individual more visible and accountable.
It seems I see greater potential for unions than you do [where I see unions as promoting their members and what they do, you only look for others to do that for them], and I seem to have higher expectations of unions that you do [where I would like to see unions be more participative in improving the stability and success of the employer, you not to even mention what they do that could be improved], but it also seems I have broader experience with unions than you do and have seen opportunities where they could improve their effectiveness and how. You do realize that a message can be sent as much by what is omitted as by what is said.
How can any organization be more powerful than the government when the government has the support of the people? I not only believe that corporations should be accountable, I also believe government agencies should be accountable. I believe both can be held accountable if they are made first accountable to themselves and what they find is made available to agents of those holding them accountable. Do you know what question to ask now, because it is about a method for holding Enbridge accountable for their operations, and holding the DNR accountable for their operations? This is a well established practice, it is even included in that regulation I mention, and was including in the initial compliance training.
We are living in my ideal, it is one that is always providing opportunities for creativity/innovation for improvement, it is dynamic.