Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer calls for anti-bias training, police reforms

The anti-bias bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Irwin from Ann Arbor, would add into law training requirements for licensed police officers beginning in 2022. (Shutterstock)

Related: Michigan Senate passes training bill aimed at reducing police brutality

LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called for Michigan police departments to enhance anti-bias training and urged the Legislature to take up new legislation aimed at reducing police killings amid global protests against police brutality. 

“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,” the Democratic governor said in a statement Wednesday, referring to African Americans who were killed this year by police or, in Arbery’s case, neighbors in Georgia. 

“I'm calling on Michigan police departments to strengthen their training and policies to save lives and keep people safe,” Whitmer said. “I am also ready to partner with the Michigan Legislature and law enforcement officials to pass police reform bills into law.” 

Protests and civil unrest have erupted worldwide in the past week, following the May 25 death of Floyd in Minneapolis. He died after a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes. His death and a widely shared video, which included Floyd repeatedly pleading “I can’t breathe,” renewed demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice against blacks.

Among other reforms, Whitmer urged police to implement “duty to intervene” policies to require officers to intervene if they see a colleague using excessive force or engage in misconduct or illegal acts. Policies have been implemented in Southfield and Lansing.

Whitmer also called for: 

  • The state Commission of Law Enforcement Standards to issue guidance to police on training that “will help officers keep up with the ever-changing landscape “of new laws and issues facing the community” including diversity training.   
  • Police to comprehensively report use of force instances by officers. 
  • The Legislature to act on Senate Bill 945, which requires new officers go through anti-bias, de-escalation and mental health training. 

“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,” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said in the statement. 

Seventy-eight people have been killed by police in Michigan since 2015, according to the Washington Post. More than half were people of color and one-third were people with a mental illnesses. 

Many of Whitmer’s recommendations, including anti-bias training, are similar to ones made in 2017 by a group convened by her predecessor, Gov. Rick Snyder, following civil unrest in 2016 in North Carolina and other communities over police shootings of black residents.

The anti-bias bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, would add into law training requirements for licensed police officers beginning in 2022. Officers would be legally required to receive implicit bias training, procedural justice training, de-escalation techniques and training in recognizing and communicating with people with mental health or substance abuse issues.

It would also require agencies to make mental health resources and support available for officers. 

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon told Bridge that new police officers must undergo a psychiatric evaluation when they’re hired, but “it never happens again throughout your whole career.”

Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, is one of the cosponsors of the legislation. She said on the Senate floor Wednesday morning that the bill was crafted before Floyd’s death and introduced days after. 

“Again and again we have witnessed unjust suspicions turn into unjust actions that turn into the death and destruction of the lives of our neighbors,” she said. 

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Tired of tired
Wed, 06/03/2020 - 8:15pm

Let me guess, some people oppose that?

Riots OK?
Thu, 06/04/2020 - 9:12am

I still haven't heard the Governor condemn any of the violence and destruction from the riots. She's quick to blame the police, but looters and arsonists get a pass.

Amazing that the state was still in COVID lock down until all of these "protests" started happening and then miraculously everything was OK to be opened again. Except for those insolent hair stylists and barbers. She's gotta punish them a little longer.

Rick Raisen
Thu, 06/04/2020 - 10:12am

The Michigan Senate has already moved on this issue, so hopefully the Governor will sign this legislation into law. Sen. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, who chairs the public safety committee, said "we are here because of multiple years" that led to where the country was Thursday and that the bill was already circulating. The bill (Senate Bill 945) was passed through committee on a 7-0 vote, which sends the bill to the full Senate.

Thu, 06/04/2020 - 10:38am

What Whitmir proposes is just a little band aid on a big cut. Start out with this,,,all police officers must carry their own personal liability insurance, just like private contractors do,,and if they are bad actors they will lose coverage,,and cannot at that time work as a cop anywhere!
Next, police unions cannot dabble in politics, like endorsing candidates. Next a civilian review board, not engaged with any Gov. body or job, and be comprised of neighboring counties citizens, to review EVERY complaint made against an officer and department, and have the power to act accordingly on those complaints, including discipline or firing of the officer involved.

Thu, 06/04/2020 - 11:25am

During my working years my company required that ethics and EEO training be redone each year. I believe anti-bias training is definitely worth it but is not a "one and done" training session. It's easy to backslide. Police, fire, elected officials etc. should be required to redo anti-bias training once a year.

Change Normal
Thu, 06/04/2020 - 5:17pm

True, yearly training necessary.

Authoritarian times
Thu, 06/04/2020 - 4:34pm

Trump imposed military rule on Americans.

Michigan Observer
Thu, 06/04/2020 - 7:31pm

The article says, The anti-bias bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, would add into law training requirements for licensed police officers beginning in 2022. Officers would be legally required to receive implicit bias training, procedural justice training, de-escalation techniques and training in recognizing and communicating with people with mental health or substance abuse issues." This pretty much reflects the usual liberal assumptions. That all the woes of the world flow from intent, from agency. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors relied almost exclusively on such assumptions. They attributed almost all difficulties to to evil, malicious intent, whether it was the river gods or somebody in the community. Perhaps that is why, in at least one small scale subsistence society, about half the males died of homicide. Not inter community warfare, but homicide. Some modern people are not far removed from those people, attributing their society,"s ills to greed, the pursuit of money. As David Hume pointed out a couple of centuries ago, it isn't money that is the root of all evil, but the lack of money. There are not enough good things to go around.

It is not anti-bias training that most police officers need, but better training in dealing with highly stressful situations very quickly without losing their cool. It is often said that flying an airliner is hours of boredom punctuated with minutes of terror. It is not easily done., and requires rigorous training. It is the same with police officers. Yes, there are rogue officers who look for opportunities to abuse their position with impunity, but they are a small minority. Attempts to deal with them that under cut the ability of the majority to maintain public order adversely affects the quality of life of everyone, particularly those who live in poor neighborhoods.

This may be too subtle a concept for the Governor to deal with, since, like most liberals, she finds it difficult to think of more than one thing at a time.

Paul Jordan
Fri, 06/05/2020 - 3:02pm

You make many, many assertions. For example--in what traditional society did 1/2 of the males die by homicide? I challenge you to identify a single instance. Most traditional societies survived by relying on the interdependence of its members, and certainly NOT by murdering them!

Ben W. Washburn
Thu, 06/04/2020 - 10:28pm

I'm not going to get into any of the immediate contentions about Minneapolis. I will be months before those contentions are presented to a jury. I don't think that Senate Bill 945 will make much of a difference, but it won't hurt, so let it happen.
I think that Malcolm Gladwell's last book: Talking to Strangers, presents a much more thoughtful and nuanced analysis of a much more central question regarding the scope and focus of police training.
In his book, Malcolm explores several ways in which folks misunderstand one another. And he focuses then upon the fact that almost most folks who go into law enforcement make it a life's mission. They are serious about what they do, and they tend to do what they have been trained to do. So, don't be surprised when that training has unintended consequences!
He posits that much police training across the nation is the result of a national study conducted in 1984 in Kansas City. Four different policing strategies were tried , and only one of the four made a dent in the violent crime rate. In Kansas City, it was limited to that 3% of the City in which 50% of the violent crime occurred.
Basically, it required officers to become aware of the details of traffic control laws. Anytime someone violated any detail of those laws, you should pull them over and engage in an in-depth questioning. For example, the law required that before making a left-turn, the driver must flash his signal at least 100 feet in advance. OK, so you pull them over, and then you engage them in a long line of questioning. If they show signs of resistance, then you have probable cause, based upon a previous Supreme Court holding, to search their car for guns and drugs. In Kansas City, within that small 3% of the City, the rate of gun and drug crimes dropped by an astonishing 50%. This study has become unfortunately the touchstone of most of today's police training. Those findings and techniques have been expanded far from that 3% in which they were initially employed, to across the board.
When the most of us get stopped on such thin grounds, we just get halfway angry. But when an African-American gets stopped, the usual and predictable response is that this is racially profiling. And this can easily escalate to a serious confrontation. Therefore, this whole basic orientation in police training has to stop. Racial sensitivity training will not be enough.