Federal and state lawmakers have been slow to take action on police reform, but Michigan law enforcement agencies are themselves making the necessary changes to training, policies, and procedures.
The public’s desire to change police training has grown with the deaths of Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Attempts to pass federal and state law on police reform failed, but local efforts were more successful as police chiefs made the necessary changes.
Farmington Hills Police Chief Jeff King has said the death of George Floyd was a horrific act committed by a criminal in police uniform and his department strives for constant improvement.
“After this murder, many police services were faced with overhauling police policies, procedures and practices,” he said. “Some have had to modify force policies, training programs and approaches to community participation. “
Over the past few years, King said the department has increased staff development and training for implicit bias, de-escalation and mental health.
“I have supported and will always support reform measures where necessary,” he said. “Where improvements can and should be made, we have done it and remain committed to doing so in the future.”
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said his department, the state’s third-largest law enforcement agency, was aimed at spearheading police changes.
“Over the past year, our office has received training in the areas of autism awareness, racial profiling, implicit bias, mental health first aid and de-escalation,” he said. declared. “During our current training period, our assistants practice reality-based training scenarios that include duty to intervene, the intervention of an involved officer by shooting and better response to people in crisis. Mental Health.”
Bouchard added that the ministry will continue to host programs that encourage training, support transparency, exceed recognized and established standards and focus on de-escalation, cultural diversity, mental health and leadership.
In Lansing, the House and Senate each presented police reform programs over the summer. The bills have not moved forward, but there are provisions that would ban strangling, no-knock warrants, and require police to notify a minor’s parent or guardian before questioning them.
The bills would also make police disciplinary records public, prohibit voluntary law enforcement, and remove qualified immunity for officers, which protects officers from private civil lawsuits. Police officials and unions strongly oppose the elimination of qualified immunity. But other parts of the sixteen-bill package enjoy bipartisan support.
State Senator Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), who sponsored one of the bills requiring local law enforcement to create use of force policies, said “productive” hearings are taking place. stood on the bipartite package.
“Amendments to the bills are under consideration and we are discussing how to move forward given the strong public support for improving police-community relations,” she said.
The House package, which was presented in June, has no hearings scheduled.
In 2020, 36 use of force incidents were reported statewide, according to Michigan State Police. These include events which resulted in the death or serious injury of a person due to the use of force by the police, and the unloading of a firearm by the police on or in the direction of a person who did not cause death or serious injury.
According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report 2021, 458 of Michigan’s 771 law enforcement agencies voluntarily submit use of force data to the FBI in monthly incident reports. Officers employed by these agencies represent 90% of all sworn law enforcement officers in the state.
Between 2019 and March 2021, 70 use of force reports of incidents were filed with the FBI, which began collecting this data in 2019. During that same period, 9,153 monthly reports were filed. showing no incidents. Of all the reports submitted, only 0.7% cite incidents of use of force.
Wixom Police Chief Ron Moore said the department’s use of force policy has been accredited by the U.S. Department of Justice and its officers are participating in joint training with other police departments in the United States. the region on evidence-based de-escalation techniques and strategies.
“Our department has a police officer serving as a mental health crisis and de-escalation instructor who trains department staff, and also offers free instruction to other police departments upon request,” he said. added.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the state’s 2022 fiscal budget this week. It includes $ 3.8 million to expand the use of body cameras, $ 500,000 to provide de-escalation training for police officers, $ 4.5 million for professional development and training of state soldiers. on topics such as mental health, de-escalation, cultural skills and communication, and $ 5 million to support efforts related to the recruitment, training and professional development of local first responders.
Following the death of George Floyd, Whitmer announced his support for a series of policy plans for police reform, calling on Michigan law enforcement to improve their training and policies to help create a police culture where all Michiganders are treated with dignity and respect within the law, including measures that require police officers to undergo training in implicit bias and de-escalation techniques.
In July, the Michigan State Police (MSP) created a new department called the Professional Development Bureau that will provide training and development on new and emerging topics such as mental health, wellness, de-escalation, cultural skills, decision making, implicit prejudices. and communication skills.
One course offered is a 16 week course designed to increase cultural competency. Several de-escalation training programs are also being developed for state police personnel, according to MSP spokesperson Shanon Banner.
A total of $ 4.5 million has been set aside in the fiscal year 2022 state budget for these enhanced training efforts and required personnel.
Tim Bourgeois, executive director of the Michigan Nonpartisan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES), said more money was needed to provide more training to local authorities. The new state budget will allow the commission to hire two employees to work on law enforcement training and licensing.
MCOLES, made up of law enforcement officials from across the state, sets the standards for the selection, employment, training, education, licensing and revocation of license of all law enforcement officers in Michigan. It also provides the Basic Law Enforcement Training Program for law enforcement academies statewide.
“The commission has the legal authority to require on-the-job training for licensed agents,” he said. “At this point, the commission has not done so. This is simply because of a lack of resources, both the lack of staff resources within the commission and a lack of funds for law enforcement agencies to conduct the training.
Bourgeois said the Michigan Justice Training Fund has been around since 1982, with 60% of those dollars to be sent to all eligible police departments for training twice a year, in the spring and fall.
In 2020, $ 2.2 million in training distributions went to more than 17,000 local law enforcement agencies, which represents approximately $ 127 per full-time officer. Compared to 2016, these two figures represent a decrease of $ 1.1 million and $ 79, respectively.
He said improving policing is possible, but added that a solid set of standards have already been in place for training for years.
“We would like to get more money for local law enforcement to help them train,” he said. “We also continually revise our curriculum. Many of the topics that were suggested to be included in the basic academy are already there and have been for years, such as de-escalation training. However, we do recognize that new methods, techniques and best practices are emerging, so we are constantly on the lookout for these things.
In Washington DC, bipartisan George Floyd Justice in Policing Act talks ended on September 22 without a deal. It was introduced in June 2020 and reintroduced in March, with House Democrats and Republicans blaming each other for the lack of progress.
The Justice in Policing Act would have set a national standard for police practice, would have collected better data on the use of force and misconduct by police, would have prohibited the use of tactics such as no-strike warrants and would have limited qualified immunity.
The law also proposed using federal dollars to support law enforcement agencies that ban controversial practices, like the strangulation that led to Floyd’s death, to increase training and to enforce the use of body cameras. . The effectiveness of the strike ban warrants also needed to be explored.
This is not the first federal attempt to reform police standards and training. This time around, changes to the use of force procedures and plans to strip officers of their qualified immunity became obstacles.
President Biden expressed his disappointment, but said he still hopes to enact a comprehensive and meaningful police reform bill that honors the name and memory of George Floyd.
“We need legislation to ensure lasting and meaningful change,” he said. “But this moment demands action, and we cannot allow those who stand in the way of progress to prevent us from answering the call.”