Michigan lawmakers finally take up police reform bills a year after George Floyd's death


Protesters in Detroit rally against police brutality. - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • Protesters in Detroit rally against police brutality.

Michigan is one of the only states in the U.S. that hasn’t approved a single anti-police brutality measure following the death of George Floyd.

That could soon change.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Thursday morning on a bipartisan, 12-bill package that covers use-of-force, no-knock warrants, chokeholds, anti-bias training, police unions, and accountability measures for abusive cops.

The legislation was introduced on Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of Floyd’s death.

“We are coming together here in Michigan to address police accountability and transparency, especially regarding use of force,” said Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit. “Change in our justice system is overdue, and this bipartisan package is the result of months of work to develop practical solutions to improve policing and public safety in our communities.”

The legislation would limit no-knock warrants and require officers to receive de-escalation and implicit bias training. Officers would be required to intervene when they observe their colleagues using excessive force, and they would be barred from using chokeholds "except to save a life."

The bills also call for the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) to create guidelines for independent investigations of officer-involved deaths. Each police department would be required to develop a policy based on those guidelines.

Police departments also would be required to develop use-of-force policies that include a verbal warning and the exhaustion of all alternatives before using deadly force.

Under one bill, MCOLES would have the authority to revoke the license of abusive cops who use excessive force that causes serious injuries or death.

The legislation also would make it more difficult for abusive cops to get another job if they’re fired for use-of-force violations. A bill proposed by Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, would require MCOLES to maintain separation records of officers who use excessive force.

“Our police departments can only keep our communities safe if our constituents trust those who are hired to protect them,” Moss said in a statement. “We must ensure that bad cops who repeatedly and dangerously breach policy are removed from the force, rather than allowing them to transfer across jurisdictions to soil another department. When officers leave one law enforcement agency for another, my bill requires that the separation reports detailing why they left include any use of force violations, so agencies have another tool to maintain the integrity of their force.”

“This is an opportunity for us to unite to protect all Michiganders with proactive measures that will put in place the best practices from law enforcement agencies across our state,” Sen. Roger Victory, R-Hudsonville, said. “I believe we all have the shared goals of improving policing, community interactions, and public perceptions while supporting the many courageous police officers who keep our families safe.”

Months ago, Democrats introduced similar police reform bills, but the GOP-majority did not let the measures advance.

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