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.”
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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.