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Governor announces reform proposal

HOUGHTON — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office on Tuesday released a statement in which Whitmer proposed additional police reform policies to help strengthen police-community relations and ensure that all state residents are treated with dignity and respect under the law. The 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, the statement said.

The first listed policy states the Whitmer administration supports legislation making 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.

The second prong, Personnel, states that the 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 third prong, states that 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.

The final part of the proposal improves 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.

Whitmer said the proposal will ensure that law enforcement officials treat all Michigan residents with humanity and respect, and help to keep communities safe. She said she will continue working leaders in law enforcement to make public safety more just and equitable in Michigan.

Lt. Governor Gilchrist said people across Michigan have been calling for changes to police practices, and the proposed actions are clear steps in the direction of needed reform.

“These reforms will help us build a more just and equitable law enforcement system,” Gilchrist said, “and ensure the safety of Black Michiganders across the state.”

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.

This is the first part of a series in which the Daily Mining Gazette will talk with local police on these proposed reforms, whether they will benefit the community, will these impact the departments in any way, or if the departments are already engaged in these actions.

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