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Michigan Gov. Whitmer Wants Police to Step Up Against Excessive Force

— June 4, 2020

Gov. Whitmer wants police departments across the state to implement policies requiring officers to stop their colleagues from using excessive force during arrests.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is asking police departments across the state to implement new policies requiring officers to intervene whenever they see a colleague using excessive force.

According to The Detroit News, Whitmer made the request earlier this week, while announcing a series of law enforcement-related reforms. Whitmer’s calls for change follows days of unrest in several of Michigan’s largest cities. In Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint and Lansing, protesters have taken to the streets to demand nationwide change following the death of George Floyd.

Floyd, an African-American man, was killed by a Minneapolis officer. He was taken into custody on suspicion of cashing a forged check. The arresting officer, Derek Chauvin, can be seen in video of the incident pinning Floyd to the ground by grinding his knee into the man’s neck. Despite Floyd’s insistence that he could not breathe, Chauvin persisted, and Floyd likely died on the scene.

As the Detroit News notes, Floyd’s death came on the heels of other violent, racially-tinged incidents, including the well-publicized shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.

Arbery, who had been jogging, was followed and shot to death by white vigilantes who suspected him of breaking into houses. Although Arbery’s death was also caught on camera, prosecutors refused to press charges against the perpetrators until the story gained traction in national news.

Protests have broken out across the nation after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd on video. Floyd, an African-American man, was suspected of cashing a fake $20 bill. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user:Rosa Pineda. (CCA-BY-4.0).

In a statement, Gov. Whitmer said the killings of men like Floyd and Arbery are “a result of hundreds of years of inequity and institutional racism against Black Americans.”

“Here in Michigan, we are taking action and working together to address the inequities black Michiganders face every day,” Whitmer said. “That’s why I’m calling on Michigan police departments to strengthen their training and policies to save lives and keep people safe. I am also ready to partner with the Michigan Legislature and law enforcement officials to pass police reform bills into law.”

Whitmer, adds, has prioritized criminal justice reform since taking office. Last April, for instance, she signed an executive order which created the Michigan Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration. Chaired by Lt. Gov Garlin Gilchrist II, the task force reviews jail and court data, proposing alternatives to incarceration while reducing jail admissions and overall lengths of stay.

Whitmer’s latest proposal, which asks police departments to implement proposals requiring officers to intervene whenever they see a colleague using excessive force, has won the support of several prominent law enforcement figures, including the head of the Michigan State Police and county sheriffs.

Daryl Green, the head of Lansing’s police department, said it’s important for law enforcement to adapt.

“Police officers must have policies and training systems in place that encourage and mandate they take immediate action to intervene when observing any form of police brutality,” Green said in a statement.

The Michigan Legislative Black Caucus also lent support to the initiative.

“We look forward to partnering with Gov. Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Gilchrist to reform the systemic inequities in this country,” said Black Caucus Chair and state Sen. Marshall Bullock (D-Detroit). “This is a time for rational though and actions, exemplified by those using their voices and feet to march for justice and we look forward to working with leaders in the legislature to address these critical issues. Silence is no longer an option.”


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