Whitmer's plan to reform police includes duty to intervene, ban on chokeholds, and more accountability

Jun 30, 2020 at 11:43 am
click to enlarge Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's plan would limit no-knock warrants. - Steve Neavling
Steve Neavling
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's plan would limit no-knock warrants.

Gov. Gretchen Whimter unveiled a widespread plan to reform police, from proposing a ban on chokeholds to requiring independent investigations of officer-involved deaths.

The plan is intended to improve accountability and address racial bias in policing in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.

“All Michiganders, no matter their community or the color of their skin, deserve equal treatment under the law,” Whitmer says in a news relelase. “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.”

The plan, which requires legislative approval, would also limit no-knock warrants and require officers to intervene when they observe their colleagues using excessive force.

Whitmer is calling on lawmakers to make it a hate crime to call 911 with false, racially motivated allegations.

Under the plan, the Michigan Commission Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) would have authority to audit police department to ensure they’re accurately reporting violations or improper use of force. Departments that fail to comply with reporting requirements would be penalized.

Whitmer also wants the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Mental Health Division to recommend the best practices and training for police responding to calls involving people with mental illnesses.

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

The plan was endorsed by the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus (MLBC), the head of the Michigan State Police, and the Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association.

“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,” MSP Director Col. Joe Gasper says.

Sen. Marshall Bullock, chairman of the MLBC, says the caucus supports the administration’s “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,” Bullock says.

It’s still unclear whether the Republican-led Legislature will support the plan. On the federal level, Republicans have stood in the way of meaningful reforms.

The Michigan Democratic Party said it supports the reforms.

“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,” MDP Chairwoman Lavora Barnes says in a written statement. “We applaud Governor Whitmer’s leadership on this issue and look forward to these reforms being implemented swiftly.”

The liberal group Progress Michigan also backed the plan.

“For too long Black communities and other communities of color have suffered unfairly due to racism, bias and white supremacy in our police and justice systems, the reforms announced by Governor Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist today are great first step in fixing a badly broken system,” Lonnie Scott, executive director at Progress Michigan, says. “Everyone deserves to feel safe in their community and all communities should have the resources necessary to make that a reality. We need to continue with reforms like these and we commend the Whitmer administration for taking these bold and necessary steps and call on the legislature to act on them without delay.”

The plan does not address activists' call to redirect money from police departments to fund youth and community services, education, housing development, homeless programs, mental health services, and parks and recreation.

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