Michigan Senate passes bill requiring implicit bias, de-escalation police training amid national unrest

Protesters in standoff with Detroit police on night of June 2, 2020. (WDIV)

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Senate passed a new bill Thursday that establishes mandatory training for incoming law enforcement officers on implicit bias, de-escalation techniques and mental health screening.

Michigan Senator Jeff Irwin proposed Bill 945 just days after the killing of Black Minneapolis man George Floyd at the hands of police officers on Memorial Day.

A Minneapolis police officer killed Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than eight minutes while he was in police custody, handcuffed and laying on the ground. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was charged with second degree murder. Three officers present during the incident were also recently charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. All four officers were fired last week.

READ: Prosecutors charge 3 more officers in George Floyd’s death

Floyd’s death followed the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, which together -- in addition to countless deaths of Black Americans by law enforcement -- have sparked a national movement calling for an end to police brutality and racism.

MORE: Protesters declare victory after Detroit police let them march without enforcing curfew

“Unlike most other professionals, police officers have just seconds to make life-altering decisions -- often under high-stress conditions -- so it’s essential we give them all of the necessary tools to keep residents safe,” Senator Irwin said. “Officers are drilled on tactics, firearms, and forensics. They practice shooting and driving. What is missing from our fundamental police training standards are how officers can identify mental illness or their own implicit biases, and use that knowledge to de-escalate a dangerous situation.”

The bill requires law enforcement officers to complete the trainings as part of their certification. Officials say some Michigan police departments already require some form of de-escalation, cultural competency or implicit bias training, but it is not currently required as part of law enforcement officers’ Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards training.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer showed support for Bill 945 in a Facebook post Wednesday.

“These are steps in the right direction, but until Black mothers can share the same set of concerns as White mothers when their children leave their homes, we have work to do,” Whitmer wrote. “All Michiganders have the right to be treated with dignity and respect by law enforcement, and I’m determined to see it through.”

Governor Whitmer called on the Michigan Commission of Law Enforcement Standards to help law enforcement agencies prioritize continuing education for officers related to community issues. She also urged law enforcement to prioritize policies requiring officers to intervene if they see a colleague doing something wrong.

MORE: Michigan Gov. Whitmer backs police changes after deaths of Floyd, others

In a statement, Whitmer said the deaths of Floyd, Arbery and “were a result of hundreds of years of inequity and institutional racism against black Americans.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel also showed support for the new Senate Bill in a statement.

“The passage of Senate Bill 945 is a necessary step in the right direction. This will not undo years of overly aggressive police actions, but it does serve as an acknowledgement of the problems with how we police and the steps we must take to drive change in the days, months and years to come," Nessel said. "We cannot allow the system to continue to fail communities of color and this bill will allow us to move forward to bring about concrete change.”

Senate Bill 945 can be read in its entirety here.


About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.