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OPINION

Letter: Help keep Michigan free of police tragedies

My parents’ mantra regarding the police was that we would rather have the police and not need them than need them and not have them. Growing up, I was always taught to respect police officers and they would respect me. I was also taught to be very careful about what to do if stopped by the police. Recent national tragedies have proven this to have been a very wise warning.

In Michigan, 15 people have lost their lives as a result of lethal force. Police officers must be able to defend themselves, but it cannot be at the cost of citizens’ lives. What we need is proactive action to be taken to help keep Michigan free of further heartbreak that is plaguing the nation.

Gov. Rick Snyder recently put forth a bold new initiative to protect our citizens and our police officers. He directed the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards to create a study on fostering public trust in law enforcement. His executive directive called for increased oversight on community policing. The oversight he called for, however, is from police officers themselves.

But any oversight of police, particularly the use of lethal force, needs to come from an objective and unbiased perspective. Gov. Snyder agrees on the need for oversight. That need for independent review is why I introduced House Bill 4232 at the beginning of last year. It would put all cases involving a police-caused fatality under objective review by the Civil Rights Department.

There is very little time left to act during this legislative cycle. With cooperation on both sides of the aisle, I know we can create a foundation of trust and equality that will benefit everyone. Police will have an impartial committee to prove that they did no wrong, and potential victims and their families would have a fair and free review to seek justice.

We cannot allow the divide between the people and the police to deepen any further. Our community policing efforts and integration efforts into their local communities are vital to the healthy relationship between police and the people. I urge the governor to do everything possible — including extra funding for police training on non-lethal practices — to deter the unwarranted and inappropriate use of force by the police.

State Rep. Alberta Tinsley-Talabi, D-Detroit