Irwin bill to increase police officer training, decrease excessive force


A Police unit responds to the scene of an emergency.

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) today introduced a bill to strengthen community-police relations and reduce excessive use of force by police officers. 

Senate Bill 945 would require that all incoming law enforcement officers complete training on implicit bias, de-escalation techniques, and mental health screening. The bill adds these elements to the certification requirements from the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES).

“Unlike most other professionals, police officers have just seconds to make life-altering decisions — often under high-stress conditions — so it’s essential we give them all of the necessary tools to keep residents safe,” Sen Irwin said. “Officers are drilled on tactics, firearms, and forensics. They practice shooting and driving. What is missing from our fundamental police training standards are how officers can identify mental illness or their own implicit biases, and use that knowledge to de-escalate a dangerous situation.”

Since 2015, more than 77 individuals have been fatally shot by police officers within the state of Michigan. Nearly 50% of these fatalities were non-white individuals and close to a third were suffering from documented mental illness. 

“Our community needs to change the culture that drives a wedge between police and the people they serve,” Sen. Irwin said. “Great police agencies are already training their officers in implicit bias and mental health screening. The Legislature needs to make these best practices in police training the law.”

Many large police departments across the country that have implemented procedural justice and de-escalation training have reported a decline in the use of force. For instance, the Dallas Police Department saw an 18% decrease in the use of force just one year following the first training, and an 83% decrease seven years later. The Las Vegas police department also saw police-involved shootings reduced by more than 50% in just four years following the introduction of de-escalation training. 

Some Michigan police departments already require some form of de-escalation, cultural competency, or implicit bias training, but SB 945 would require that every officer receive such training as part of their initial MCOLES training and certification. 

In other related news:

The East Lansing City Council passed a resolution Tuesday to establish a Study Committee on an Independent Police Oversight Commission.

The mission of the Study Committee will be to review best practices based on national standards and to propose a framework for a Police Oversight Commission. The Committee will have six months to prepare and present a report to the City Council.

Because of this short timeline, those interested in serving on the Study Committee are asked to apply by Friday, June 26, 2020. The application is available here:

The study committee will include two MSU students (including one from the East Lansing University Student Commission), two members of the East Lansing Human Relations Commission, one member affiliated with the ACLU, one member affiliated with another civil rights-oriented organization (i.e. the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, etc.), one member with expertise in law enforcement standards (who is not an active duty police officer) and four additional people with pertinent expertise.

The City Council is seeking individuals from affected communities, such as African Americans, Muslims and immigrants, to serve on the Study Committee. Council is also seeking people with professional experience in de-escalation, appropriate policing methods and police-community relations.

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