New Police Reforms Proposed by Gov. Whitmer

With the laser hot focus of the national spotlight still squarely on police across the nation, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is today proposing additional police reform policies to help strengthen police-community relations and ensure that all Michiganders are treated with dignity and respect under the law.

The governor’s new four-pronged plan, which was developed in partnership with community leaders and law enforcement organizations, will make significant reforms in policy, personnel, participation and community engagement, and prevention and accountability to address racial disparities in how law enforcement is applied toward communities of color.

Whitmer says, “All Michiganders, no matter their community or the color of their skin, deserve equal treatment under the law,” and adds, “This proposal will help us ensure that law enforcement officials treat all Michiganders with humanity and respect, and will help us keep our communities safe. I will continue working with leaders in law enforcement to make public safety more just and equitable in Michigan.”

Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist says, “People across Michigan have been calling for changes to police practices, and these actions are clear steps in the direction of needed reform,” adding, “These reforms will help us build a more just and equitable law enforcement system and ensure the safety of Black Michiganders across the state. ”

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Over the last several weeks, the governor added four seats to The Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES), including the Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, to bring more community voices to the table as the commission considers police reforms for our state. The governor also requested that MCOLES provide guidance to law enforcement agencies on continuing education that will help officers keep up with the ever-changing landscape of new laws and issues facing the community, including diversity and implicit bias training.

Additionally, the governor has encouraged police departments to participate in efforts that are underway on comprehensive reporting on the use of force by police departments and urged law enforcement agencies to implement duty to intervene policies.

The governor proposed the following reforms today:

POLICY: The Whitmer Administration supports legislation that makes the following reforms to law enforcement policies:

  • Ban chokeholds/windpipe blockage.
  • Further limit the use of no-knock warrants.
  • Require “duty to intervene” policies.
  • Classify false, racially-motivated 911 calls as a hate crime.
  • Require in-service training for all licensed law enforcement officers to maintain licensure.
  • Authorize MCOLES to do the following:
    • Audit law enforcement agencies to ensure they are accurately reporting violations of law or improper use of force.
    • Establish penalties for agencies who don’t comply with reporting.
  • Direct the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Mental Health Diversion Council to make recommendations on best practices and training for police departments when responding to situations involving persons with mental illnesses.

PERSONNEL: The Whitmer Administration will work with leaders in law enforcement to make the following reforms to build a more empathetic police force:

  • Provide incentive programs for law enforcement agencies to hire/retain officers who live where they work.
  • Require retention of disciplinary records resulting from violations of law or improper use of force.

PARTNERSHIP/COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: The Whitmer Administration will promote the following community engagement strategies to strengthen trust between police officers and the communities they serve:

  • Invest in programming in communities around the state that connect local police and community leaders to build relationships.
  • Invest in expanding existing community relationship programs to break down barriers between police and communities around the state.

PREVENTION AND ACCOUNTABILITY: The Whitmer Administration will support legislation that makes the following reforms to improve transparency and accountability in investigations:

  • Require independent investigations of all shootings and use of force that resulted in the death of unarmed civilians at the hands of law enforcement.

Responding to the governor’s plans today, Colonel Joe Gasper, Director of the Michigan State Police, says, “Law enforcement derives its authority from the public who entrusts us to protect and serve them, and I am fully committed to working with Governor Whitmer and her administration to increase accountability and improve transparency in order to build community support and trust.”

Senator Marshall Bullock, Chairman of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, says, “The MLBC stands with Gov. Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Gilchrist and the administration on this next step in addressing the issues of police brutality and accountability. As members of the Senate and House we continue to work on bicameral legislation to place these and other reforms into statute and look forward to continued collaboration with her, the community and the departments.”

Lt. Mark Young, President of the Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association and Vice President of the National Association of Police Organizations, says, “These proposed reforms will continue to put Michigan ahead of the nation in setting standards for professional police conduct that leads to trust between police officers and the communities they serve. Good police officers accept accountability as they risk their lives everyday to protect Michigan’s citizens.”

The Michigan Democratic Party released the following statement on behalf of Chair Lavora Barnes: “The Michigan Democratic Party supports the police reforms announced today by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The proposal supports a wide range of reforms and policy changes, like banning chokeholds and limiting no-knock warrants, and accountability and transparency reforms. It also focuses on ways to promote better police-community relations, which is critical to improving and building trust between police departments and the communities they serve. These reforms are a step in the right direction towards ending systemic racism against Black Americans and people of color in our country, and ensuring that all Michiganders, no matter their race or their zip code, receive equal treatment when it comes to public safety. We applaud Governor Whitmer’s leadership on this issue and look forward to these reforms being implemented swiftly.”