Whitmer supports banning chokeholds, making racially motivated 911 calls hate crimes

    Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a June 4 march against police brutality in Southeast Michigan | Gov. Whitmer office photo
    Updated, 5:14 p.m. 6/29/20 with additional comments from Whitmer

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday proposed additional police reform policies aimed at helping strengthen police-community relations.

    The four-pronged plan, which was developed in partnership with community leaders and law enforcement organizations, is designed to achieve significant reforms in policy, personnel, participation and community engagement, and prevention. The proposed measures are designed to address racial disparities in how law enforcement is applied toward communities of color.  

    “All Michiganders, no matter their community or the color of their skin, deserve equal treatment under the law,” Whitmer said. “This proposal will help us ensure that law enforcement officials treat all Michiganders with humanity and respect, and will help us keep our communities safe.”

    Whitmer rolls out reforms to prevent police brutality

    The effort comes in the wake of recent deaths of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks at the hands of police in Minneapolis and Atlanta, respectively. Both men were Black. Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, the state’s first African American to serve in the post, pointed out that people have been calling for these changes for some time.

    “These reforms will help us build a more just and equitable law enforcement system and ensure the safety of Black Michiganders across the state,” Gilchrist said.

    In recent weeks, Whitmer added four seats to the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES), including the Michigan Department of Civil Rights director, to bring more voices to the table as the body considers police reforms.

    State Sen. Marshall Bullock (D-Detroit), Michigan Legislative Black Caucus chair, supports Whitmer’s proposal.

    Asked whether Whitmer believes that structural racism is a public health issue, the governor told WDET’s “Detroit Today” on Monday: “I’m encouraged at what we are seeing across the country, and frankly, around the world. People are outraged.”

    “This is a long time coming, let’s be honest. This is something that permeates the health of the African-American community. And I think that it is something that we are having that conversation about in state government. What that looks like, and what a declaration of that would look like. I am most focused on actions that we can take, whether it is unilaterally or actions that the Legislature can take to come along and remedy these historic and disparate realities.”

    The Detroit City Council is considering such a declaration. So are the states of Ohio and Wisconsin and at least a dozen cities across the country. Democratic members of the Michigan Legislature have measures, as well.

    4 community members added to law enforcement standards commission

    Whitmer proposes to:

    • Ban chokeholds/windpipe blockage. 
    • Further limit the use of no-knock warrants. 
    • Require “duty to intervene” policies. 
    • Classify false, racially motivated 911 calls as a hate crime.  
    • Require in-service training for all licensed law enforcement officers to maintain licensure.   
    • Authorize MCOLES to audit law enforcement agencies to ensure they are accurately reporting violations of law or improper use of force and establish penalties for agencies who don’t comply with reporting.  
    • Direct the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Mental Health Diversion Council to make recommendations on best practices and training for police departments when responding to situations involving persons with mental illnesses. 
    • Provide incentive programs for law enforcement agencies to hire/retain officers who live where they work. 
    • Require retention of disciplinary records resulting from violations of law or improper use of force.  
    • Invest in programming in communities around the state that connect local police and community leaders to build relationships. 
    • Invest in expanding existing community relationship programs to break down barriers between police and communities around the state.  
    • Require independent investigations of all shootings and use of force that resulted in the death of unarmed civilians at the hands of law enforcement.  
    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman reports on Southeast Michigan, education, civil rights and voting rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.