Gilchrist: 'We all have role to play' discussing police reform in Michigan

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

After weeks of protests in the streets, Michigan's Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said solutions to police reform will come from people within their communities "who are the closest to the problem."

Gilchrist appeared on MSNBC with NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Kasie Hunt on Sunday to talk about police reform.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, middle left, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer attend a march in Highland Park on June 4 to honor George Floyd, whose death May 25 sparked protests nationwide.

Gilchrist touted the state's move to expand the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards to expand community input and civil rights oversight on the board. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday added four seats to the commission.

"That's really important because there was not enough civilian representation and oversight in that body ..., but we believe that people from communities and people who are the closest to the problems, will experience them every day," Gilchrist said. "These are the people who have the solutions, and that's why we expand the board in this way."

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist appeared on MSNBC's Kasie DC with NBC News Capitol Hill Correspondent Kasie Hunt on June 14, 2020.

Whitmer will appoint three community members and the director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to the board as the state moves toward reforms in the wake of police brutality protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

The commission sets profession standards in police education, licensing, employment, selection and funding. The 19-member panel includes one member of the public and 18 others associated with policing, criminal defense and prosecution. 

Governors are exploring what can be done through executive action, Gilchrist said.

"We have the ability, and I think the responsibility, to speak our values and speak our truth here about how we need to invest in communities, how we need to make sure that law enforcement is building a relationship with the community and not have an adversarial one ..." Gilchrist said governors need to work with the Michigan Legislature The Senate passed a set of reforms two weeks ago that would add de-escalation and implicit bias training as a requirement for police, he said.  

"Because law enforcement professionals are professionals, they need to be treated just like teachers or engineers or doctors. You have to keep honing your craft and getting better at your job," Gilchrist said. "So we're certainly working with the Legislature to the extent that we can."

The bill faced opposition from some law enforcement groups.

Robert Stevenson, executive director of the police chiefs organization, said the job of training officers belongs to the professionals who work in law enforcement, not the Legislature. He added that much of the training the bill requires already is happening.

Gilchrist said he has had negative interactions with law enforcement since he was 14.

Reforms need police unions on board, he said.

"I think everyone has a role to play in fixing this broken system, and a broken set of relationships and that includes police unions that represent officers," he said. "But those officers are members of communities and everyone in our community needs to have empathy for the people who have a genuine and justified fear of any interaction with law enforcement.

"We all have a role to play, and I think policing unions need to step up to the plate, just like everybody else."

Twitter: @SarahRahal_