A bill requiring all incoming law enforcement officers to complete training on implicit bias, de-escalation techniques and mental health screening passed unanimously through the GOP-led Senate on Thursday — a rarity for progressive legislation.
State Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), who introduced Senate Bill 945, said this is “a small step forward in righting years of unlawful police brutality.”
“Training for police officers is one crucial way the Legislature can improve policing, specifically for those Black and Brown Americans who are disproportionately targeted,” Irwin said.
The training requirements would be added to the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards.
Irwin said he drafted the bill before George Floyd, a 45-year-old African American from Minneapolis, was killed last week by a police officer who pinned a knee on Floyd’s neck.
Since Floyd’s death, protests have been popping up in every state in the country. In Michigan, a number of protests were held in Grand Rapids, Detroit, Lansing, Flint, Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor.
The bill garnered support from many Democratic leaders in the state, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
On Wednesday, Whitmer applauded the Senate for taking up the bill and said she is “ready to partner with the Michigan Legislature and law enforcement officials to pass police reform bills into law.”
“The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor were a result of hundreds of years of inequity and institutional racism against Black Americans,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Here in Michigan, we are taking action and working together to address the inequities Black Michiganders face every day.”
Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) also expressed support for the bill.
“The horrifying pattern of police brutality against Black and Brown people must end. Period,” Ananich said Thursday. “Dismantling the systemic racism that has led to the mistreatment and deaths of Black and Brown Americans will not be a quick fix, but we are committed to seeing this through. Meaningful change will require more legislation like Sen. Irwin’s, more compassion for our neighbors, more difficult conversations, and many, many more listening ears.”
The bill now moves to the House for further consideration.