New bill to require ‘de-escalation’ training for Michigan law enforcement amid national outcry against police brutality

The new bill aims to help officers “de-escalate dangerous situations” after death of black Minneapolis man garners national attention

A demonstrator holding a sign jumps up and down so police officers behind the front lines could see it, outside the Oakdale, Minn,, home of fired Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin on Wednesday evening, May 27, 2020. The mayor of Minneapolis called Wednesday for criminal charges against the white police officer seen on video kneeling against the neck of Floyd George, a handcuffed black man who complained that he could not breathe and died in police custody. (Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via AP) (Jeff Wheeler, © 2020 Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune)

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Senator Jeff Irwin introduced a new bill to increase law enforcement training that focuses on de-escalation techniques amid a national outcry to end police brutality.

Irwin’s Bill 945 would ensure all incoming police officers receive training on de-escalation techniques, implicit bias and mental health screening as part of their certification.

“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,” 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.”

According to a Washington Post study, more than 77 individuals have been fatally shot by police officers in Michigan since 2015. Officials say almost 50% of these individuals were non-white and nearly a third suffered from a documented mental illness.

“Our community needs to change the culture that drives a wedge between police and the people they serve,” Irwin said. “Great police agencies are already training their officers in implicit bias and mental health screening. The Legislature needs to make these best practices in police training the law.”

The Michigan bill comes just after a 46-year-old black Minneapolis man was killed by police officers using excessive force on Memorial Day. George Floyd was handcuffed when a police officer knelt on his neck -- even though he said he could not breathe -- and reportedly remained there for at least eight minutes, even after Floyd stopped moving and breathing.

Read: Swift firings for 4 white Minneapolis officers in death of black man

Floyd’s tragic death was captured on video and has garnered national attention, fueling violent protests in Minneapolis and Los Angeles. His story has gone viral on social media and people across the nation are demanding justice and reform in the name of civil rights and police brutality against black Americans.

Floyd’s story: Victim in police encounter had started new life in Minnesota

Floyd’s death follows less than two weeks after the nation mourned the death of Ahmaud Arbery -- a black man from Georgia who was killed by white men in what was called a “modern day lynching”. Arbery’s death was also caught on video and widely shared around the country, triggering protests against racial injustice in the U.S.

More: Official: Investigation of Arbery slaying finished soon

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. The new bill aims to correct that.

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.