Whitmer rolls out police reform proposals

Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Amid a national call for police reform, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday unveiled a series of proposals that she says are meant to combat racial inequity.

Whitmer’s administration broke down the plan into four sections: policy, personnel, partnership and community engagement, and prevention and accountability.

The policy section includes several changes that would have to be implemented by the state Legislature, including:

  • Bans on chokeholds and other windpipe blockages,
  • Limiting the use of no-knock warrants,
  • Requiring officers to step in when they see a colleague using excessive force,
  • Classifying 911 calls placed based on race as hate crimes.
  • Getting the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards to audit departments’ reporting of officers violating the law or improper use of force and set penalties for failing to report properly.

Some of the measures are already in effect in Grand Rapids. In recent weeks, the Grand Rapids Police Department explicitly banned the use of chokeholds and announced an excessive force intervention policy. The city also has a human rights ordinance that under a 2019 update makes biased crime reporting a civil infraction punishable by a fine.

Referencing personnel, Whitmer’s administration said it would work with law enforcement to create incentive programs for departments to hire officers who live with they work and require agencies to maintain disciplinary records. Under the community engagement umbrella, the governor’s office called on agencies to invest in building relationships with local leaders and the communities they serve.

The Legislature would also have to pass another of Whitmer’s proposals, which was listed under prevention and accountability: requiring independent investigations of all deaths of unarmed civilians at the hands of officers.

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

In a release from the governor’s office, Michigan State Police Director Col. Joe Gasper said he was “fully committed” to improving accountability and transparency “to build community support and trust.”

The wake of George Floyd’s death after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck last month, there have been protests and rallies across the country calling for a change in policing, particularly in regards to how communities of color are treated. There have also been increasing demands to slash agencies’ funding and redirect the money to community aid programs, including in Grand Rapids. Whitmer’s proposals do not address funding.

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