Michigan law enforcement agencies are taking matters into their own hands to heed the public’s call for police reform.
Local agencies across the state are implementing training, policy and procedural changes themselves as legislative attempts at the Federal and state level have stalled.
Farmington Hills Police Department is one agency conscious of change. Police Chief Jeff King said that after the death of George Floyd, his department and others in the state have put extra focus on making changes.
“After that murder, many police departments were faced with reviewing policies, procedures, and policing practices,” he said. “Some had to alter force policies, training programs, and approaches to community involvement.”
King said that over the last few years, the department has implemented training emphasizing de-escalation tactics, mental health awareness and recognition of implicit bias.
“I have and will always support reform measures where needed. Where improvements can and should be made, we have done so and remain committed to doing so in the future,” King told The Oakland Press.
Meanwhile, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, who leads the state’s third-largest agency, confirmed that his agency has reviewed its practices and policies and introduced several changes.
“In the last year, our office has completed training in the areas of autism awareness, racial profiling, implicit bias, mental health first aid, and de-escalation,” he said.
He continued: “In our current training period, our deputies are practicing reality-based training scenarios that include duty to intervene, officer involved shooting response, and better response to persons in a mental health crisis.”
In Wixom, Police Chief Ron Moore said the department’s use of force policy is accredited by the U.S. Department of Justice, and that officers carry out joint training with other area police departments on de-escalation techniques.
The department has also added a mental health expert to the ranks to act as an instructor.
“Our department has a police officer serving as a mental health crisis and de-escalation instructor who trains department personnel, and also offers no-cost instruction to other police agencies, upon request,” he added.
While local departments make internal changes, state legislators are working on police reform bills with provisions banning chokeholds, no-knock warrants, and requiring police to notify a minor’s parent or guardian before questioning.
The bills also seek to eliminate qualified immunity and make police disciplinary records public, measures that are strongly opposed by police unions.
State Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), who sponsored the Senate bill, said there are “productive” hearings being held. A bill from the House introduced in June meanwhile, has not advanced.
“Changes to the bills are being considered and we are in conversations about how to move forward given the strong public support for improving police-community relations,” Chang said.
So far, both bills have yet to advance to the floor.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also recently approved the state’s fiscal 2022 budget, which aims to provide departments with the resources needed to carry out certain reforms.
The budget 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 for state troopers on mental health, de-escalation, cultural competency, and communication strategies, as well as $5 million to support general recruitment, training, and professional development of local officers.