Michigan Senate approves ‘bad apple’ cop bill

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — The Michigan Senate on Thursday unanimously approved legislation designed to stop “bad apple” law enforcement officers from hiding troubling behavior by stepping down and switching jobs before they are disciplined.

Sponsoring Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, introduced a similar measure last year after an Eaton County deputy sheriff resigned prior to a disciplinary hearing on abusive arrest allegations but was quickly hired in another part of the state.

The legislation would require law enforcement agencies to document any reasons for officer resignations and allow another agency to request a “separation of service record” for any officer they are considering hiring.

The officer would have an opportunity to review the separation record and submit a written statement if he or she disagrees with the description.

“What this does is make sure we don’t have what’s known nationally as a gypsy cop hopping from department to department,” said Jones, a former Eaton County sheriff himself. “Ninety-nine percent of all officers are the finest people in the world, but once in a while, you have a bad apple.”

The legislation was inspired by former Eaton County sheriff deputy Greg Brown, who reportedly resigned in 2014 three weeks after a controversial traffic stop but was subsequently hired by the Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office, according to the Lansing City Pulse newspaper.

Cellphone video recorded by the driver, who was pulled over for a broken brake light, appeared to show Brown grab the driver’s arm and attempt to pull him out of his car by his head or neck.

Jones said documenting a reason for resignation could be useful in any profession but focused his bill on law enforcement because officers have “the power of life and death.”

“I absolutely believe if you get rid of officers who have assaulted people, don’t re-employ them, it will help the image of all officers,” he said.

The Michigan State Police supported the bill in committee, but other police groups continue to study the legislation before weighing in.

The Police Officers Association of Michigan has no comment on the bill, legislative director Ken Grabowski said Thursday. “We’ll wait and see where it goes,” Grabowski said.

The proposal now heads to the House, where it did not vote last year on a similar bill that passed the Senate late last year, leading Jones to reintroduce the bill this year.