Michigan House opposes calls to defund the police

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The Michigan House adopted a resolution Wednesday opposing the defunding of police departments, a rallying cry that protesters have used to suggest the redistribution of some government spending to priorities other than law enforcement. 

The resolution introduced by Rep. Ryan Berman, R-Commerce Township, passed 79-29. More than a dozen Democrats joined Republicans in support of the resolution, including House Democratic Leader, Rep. Christine Greig of Farmington Hills. 

Michigan House of Representatives, 2018.

The document acknowledged that recent examples of police brutality had drawn attention “justifiably,” but defunding the departments would “burden remaining departments” called upon to assist those that had been defunded.

“The egregious misconduct and bias of some law enforcement officers demonstrates the need for reform, but efforts to defund or abolish local police departments gives credence to the incorrect notion that law enforcement generally is harmful to local communities, rather than a cornerstone of a safe and prosperous society,” the resolution said.

Arguments to defund the police, Berman said, are about “politicization, not practicality.”

“Calls to defund the police operate under the assumption that they’re well funded now,” he said. “The truth is they’re barely getting by anyways.

“Less funding means you’re less likely to get a quality officer when departments across the country are recruiting them,” he said. 

The resolution, which discouraged local governments from defunding police, was sent to the Michigan Association of Counties, the Michigan Townships Association, the Michigan Municipal League, the Michigan Association of Township Supervisors and the Michigan Association of Mayors. 

The resolution spurred opposition from some Detroit Democrats, who argued that supporters were missing the message from protesters. 

The purpose of the defund the police movement is not to “zero out” police budgets, but to redistribute some funding to other priorities such as mental health, said Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, D-Detroit. 

“We’re going to get rid of the practices that no longer keep us all safe,” she said. “…Yes, I’m calling to defund the police as we know it, but not to zero it out.”

Rep. Cynthia A Johnson, D-Detroit, argued the resolution was a knee-jerk reaction by those who haven’t bothered to listen to the messages of protesters.

“The underlying premise of this resolution suggests that law enforcement interactions across communities are equal,” she said. “I can tell you that they are not.

“You are valuing property over lives,” Johnson said of opposition to protests. “Windows can be replaced. People cannot.”