Bill would mandate deescalation training for Michigan police

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new bill would require additional training for new law enforcement officers in Michigan. 

Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor introduced Senate Bill 945 Thursday. The bill would add deescalation, implicit bias and mental health screening training to the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) certification requirements. 

According to a Washington Post study, more than 77 people have been fatally shot by police officers in Michigan since 2015. 

Nearly 50% of the deaths were non-white individuals and close to a third of those killed were suffering from documented mental illness, a press release discussing the bill cited. 

“… I also didn’t expect to be making these comments after the tragic death of Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis or after a tragic and horrifying incident that happened in my own community in Washtenaw County this weekend,” Irwin said as he introduced the bill. “This is some legislation I’ve been working on for some time…”

Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, is a co-sponsor on the bill.

“It seemed really important at this time, when we’ve seen recent cases that were just so outrageous in the news,” Brinks told News 8 Friday. “This bill specifically addresses training that every single police officer has to have in order to become a police officer to begin with. So, this would be at the very beginning of one’s career, so it would help set the stage and establish that foundation.”

The bill would also require current officers to complete the new training in a designated timeframe.

Brinks acknowledged many agencies already employ similar training methods. This would make it uniform statewide.

“Being a police officer is a really stressful and difficult job,” Brinks added. “I want to recognize that and I want to appreciate all of those excellent police officers out there who serve our community every day and who put their lives in danger every day. But I want to make sure we’re doing it right and I want to make sure that this isn’t perceived as being against police or law enforcement because I genuinely appreciate what they do. It’s just really important that we do policing and community police relations the right way.”

Last year, Brinks introduced Senate Bill 502, which aims at creating a police academy scholarship program that would help diversify law enforcement agencies.

It was referred to the Committee on Appropriations Sept. 10, 2019 and has sat there since.

Brinks is optimistic Senate Bill 945 will receive a committee hearing and have more success.

She also believes constituents will be contacting her colleagues to reinforce the importance of change related to police relations within communities.

Having conversations about systematic disparities is not enough, Brinks said.

“It’s an important first step, but unless that’s followed up by action that changes systems, our impact will be limited,” Brinks explained. “And so, it’s more than just changing hearts and minds, it’s about changing outcomes. Unless we’re willing to take a look at all of our systems, what we do, how we do it, what we expect from people, we will not see changes. It’s a life and death issue.”