LANSING, Mich. — Sens. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit), Marshall Bullock(D-Detroit), and Jim Ananich (D-Flint) have introduced a bill package to reform policing in Michigan. The senators are continuing their conversations across the aisle to develop a bipartisan set of bills for later this year.
The legislation would enhance and improve partnerships between social workers and law enforcement, offer training to help police safely deal with people who struggle with a mental illness, create opportunities to weed out “bad apple” cops, and reduce potential high-intensity police stops triggered by 911 calls that are based on a person’s race, rather than the actual suspicion of a crime.
Sen. Chang’s bill, Senate Bill 1162, would create the Office of Social Work and Police Partnerships within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). The office would create and oversee an advisory council and grant program to social service and law enforcement agencies to hire social workers, licensed practical counselors, or psychologists to respond to crises ¾ connecting residents with mental health, substance abuse, housing, and other services. The office would also ensure cross-training between law enforcement officers and social workers and evaluate the programs.
“It’s clear after the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among so many others before them, that we must reimagine public safety and make meaningful reforms to how our communities are policed,” Sen. Chang said, “This bill package provides common-sense, practical solutions. We can improve how our law enforcement works with our residents by implementing these changes, including more social work and police partnerships.”
Sen. Geiss’ bills, Senate Bills 1167 and 1168, would classify the false reporting of a crime or suspected crime to 911 — based solely on the alleged perpetrator’s race or ethnicity — as a crime.
“In recent months, we have seen countless people weaponize their white privilege and needlessly escalate conflicts by calling the police on innocent Black and Brown people who have not committed any crime,” Sen. Geiss said. “Ethnic intimidation against our over-policed communities of color only serves to perpetuate the unjust systems of racism, oppression and discrimination — and it needs to stop.”
Senate Bill 1163, introduced by Sen. Santana, would direct the MDHHS Mental Health Diversion Council to make recommendations on best practices and training for police when responding to situations involving persons with mental illnesses.
“Persons with mental illnesses sometimes have special needs when it comes to being stopped by police,” Sen. Santana said, “My bill will provide police with training on this issue so they are better equipped with the knowledge of how to deal with and deescalate these potential situations, and so that we can also ensure no one walks away from a minor altercation injured or in handcuffs unnecessarily.”
Sen. Bullock’s bills, Senate Bills 1164 and 1165, would permit victims of police sexual misconduct to submit a complaint form to MDHHS branches or at medical facilities that provide sexual assault testing kits. The form would then be forwarded to the proper investigatory body in which the alleged assault took place.
“Police departments should not be investigating their own officers in cases of police sexual misconduct,” Sen. Bullock said, “By bringing MDHHS or local medical facilities into the mix, we can make sure that complaints brought forward are properly investigated so that our local police departments can remove the bad apples from their forces if they need to do so.”
Senate Bill 1166, introduced by Sen. Ananich, would protect individuals who file a police misconduct complaint by prohibiting a person from knowingly disclosing the complaint or information provided in the complaint.
“Anyone who bravely volunteers to blow the whistle on bad behavior by public servants, including police, should be protected,” Sen. Ananich said. “Victims and witnesses should feel safe to report these kinds of incidents, and that’s the goal of my bill. I’m proud to partner on this set of bills to make needed updates to public safety and accountability.”
Democratic senators have also previously introduced legislation regarding scholarships to improve diversity within law enforcement (Senate Bills 501-502; Sen. Brinks), duty to intervene (Senate Bill 992; Sen. Irwin), prohibiting police officers from engaging in sexual activity while on duty (Senate Bill 990; Sen. Hertel), and more.
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