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Whitmer: Police departments should enact 'duty to intervene' policies

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged police agencies across the state Wednesday to require officers to intervene when they observe excessive force being used by one of their colleagues.

Whitmer made the request while announcing a series of law enforcement-related reforms she is supporting amid continuing outrage and protests about the May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota.

The governor's press release came the same day The Star Tribune newspaper in Minnesota reported that three additional officers would face charges in Floyd's death and another would face a more serious charge than was originally levied, according to the Associated Press.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a news conference regarding the state’s response to the emergency regarding dam conditions and flooding  in Midland and Sanford on Wednesday, May 27, 2020 at Meridian Elementary School in Sanford.

The recent deaths of Floyd; Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed in Georgia; and Breonna Taylor, who was shot by police in Kentucky, were "a result of hundreds of years of inequity and institutional racism against Black Americans," Whitmer said.

"Here in Michigan, we are taking action and working together to address the inequities black Michiganders face every day," she continued. "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, a Democrat, said "duty to intervene" policies will save lives and help to keep people safe if adopted by departments. She encouraged the GOP-controlled Legislature to act on a Senate bill that would require new officers to go through training on implicit bias, de-escalation techniques and mental health screenings, according to governor's office.

The Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee is scheduled to consider the bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

Hundreds of protesters march against police brutality near the Michigan Capitol on Sunday, May 31, 2020.

"We need officers who are going to stand up and say something when they see someone doing something illegal or wrong," Irwin said last week. "We need officers who are trained to recognize when they are exercising their discretion they need to be careful about that. They need to recognize their own biases."

On Wednesday, Whitmer also said she would request the Michigan Commission of Law Enforcement Standards provide guidance to law enforcement agencies on continuing education that will help "officers keep up with the ever changing landscape of new laws and issues facing the community," according to a press release.

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon said in the Whitmer press release that he strongly supports requiring the Michigan commission to re-examine "recruiting, hiring , training and retention requirements for Michigan’s police officers."

"This examination is not only long overdue but it is absolutely imperative," Napoleon said.

cmauger@detroitnews.com