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Michigan Senate passes training bill aimed at reducing police brutality

The Michigan Senate unanimously passed legislation that would mandate anti-bias training, de-escalation training and ongoing mental health services for police officers Thursday, as nationwide protests against police brutality continue nationwide.

“This is only one step towards the greater justice and freedom that our residents are calling for,” said bill sponsor Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor on the Senate floor shortly before the vote. 

“There’s work to do in every corner of this nation to fight for this greater justice and to drive progress to end police brutality. There’s work to be done at kitchen tables and city councils and police stations and training programs. But there is also work that we need to be doing here in the state Legislature.”

The bill now goes to the House. If passed, it would go to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who urged the Legislature to support it on Wednesday. 

The bill would require beginning in 2022: 

  • All licensed police officers undergo training in de-escalation, implicit bias and procedural justice 
  • Law enforcement agencies make mental health resources and support available for officers 
  • Officers receive training in identifying and de-escalating encounters with people with mental health and substance abuse issues
  • Officers complete at least 12 hours of “continuing education” within the year, and complete at least 24 hours of continuing education every year afterward.

De-escalation training would include teaching techniques for minimizing the use of force with an emphasis on communication, negotiation and “providing the time needed to resolve the incident safely.” Implicit bias training would involve learning about unconscious biases and “improving response strategies” to those biases.

The proposal faced opposition from the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association and the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police in a Senate committee Thursday morning, arguing training standards should be designed by law enforcement personnel and that most of the training outlined in the legislation is already in place. 

The bill does not allocate money for training in Michigan’s nearly 600 police forces and 17,000 officers.

Sen. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, who chairs the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee — which also approved the bill unanimously that morning — said he was “surprised [similar legislation] hasn’t been taken up over the last 20 years.”

Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, one of the bill co-sponsors, said Thursday it’s a pivotal moment in the nation’s history and that the training could prevent potentially fatal outcomes in the future. 

Police have killed 78 people in Michigan since 2015. More than half were people of color and one-third were people with a mental illnesses. 

The bill was passed in the wake of widespread protests decrying police brutality after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May. Floyd, an African American man, was killed by a white former police officer who knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes. 

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