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Whitmer expands police reform recommendations to include chokehold ban, department audits

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has broadened her recommendations for police reforms to seek legislation banning chokeholds, limitations on no-knock warrants and audits of police department reporting practices. 

The recommendations are part of a new plan that would incorporate changes to policy, personnel, community engagement and accountability. They were announced in a press release Monday. 

The plan builds on ideas Whitmer released earlier this month to require “duty to intervene” policies and training in de-escalation, implicit bias and mental health screenings. She also added four new seats to the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards for community input. 

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, middle left, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer attend a march against police brutality in Highland Park on June 4.

“This proposal will help us ensure that law enforcement officials treat all Michiganders with humanity and respect, and will help us keep our communities safe,” Whitmer said. “I will continue working with leaders in law enforcement to make public safety more just and equitable in Michigan.”  

Among the policy recommendations Whitmer made Monday were the classification of racially motivated, fake 911 call as a hate crime, audits to determine whether law enforcement agencies were accurately reporting use of force incidents, chokehold bans and no-knock warrant limitations. 

Whitmer also proposed an incentive program for police departments that hire officers who live in the community and the retention of disciplinary records for law enforcement. Investments in community engagement activities between police and residents also was recommended. 

She also supported independent investigation of all fatal police office-involved shootings and use of force incidents. 

“People across Michigan have been calling for changes to police practices, and these actions are clear steps in the direction of needed reform,” Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist said in the statement announcing the reforms.

“These reforms will help us build a more just and equitable law enforcement system and ensure the safety of Black Michiganders across the state.” 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan was pleased with the recommendations, but the group said it would continue to push for further reform to policies, practices and reporting at police departments. 

"This really clarifies that we want our police departments to be different and accountable and also efficient, effective and respectful of people," said Shelli Weisberg, political director for the ACLU of Michigan. "The Legislature needs to move quickly to make sure these suggestions don’t become a plan on a shelf.”

The Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police was not consulted ahead of Monday's announcement, but it looks forward to being part of the conversation going forward, said Bob Stevenson, executive director for the association. 

The association generally would be supportive of the plan, but Stevenson noted use of chokeholds in Michigan largely is governed by a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that put it on par with an officer-involved shooting. 

"We don’t use them in Michigan anyway, and they’re not included in training, except for deadly force,” Stevenson said. "We already have strict controls from the court on when they can be used.”