House Republicans pass some police reforms, but Dems, activists say plan falls short

By: - May 14, 2021 3:21 pm

Black Lives Matter protest against police brutality in Lansing, June 29, 2020 | Laina G. Stebbins

The GOP-controlled state House on Thursday approved a spending plan to provide resources to law enforcement agencies. It was a move that Democrats, who offered a similar plan the previous day, described as “lip service” and playing “partisan political games.” 

State Rep. Mike Mueller (R-Linden), a retired sheriff’s deputy, said the measure, which was added to a supplemental budget bill, is designed to “focus on attracting new talent to the profession, developing the skills of existing police officers, funding important services like road patrols and community policing, and offering mental health support.”

The action was approved largely on party lines and provides a $80 million funding increase for law enforcement, including $47 million to help recruit and retain officers. It now goes to the GOP-controlled Senate for consideration. 

“I can’t stress enough how important the mental health component of our plan is,” Mueller added. “With the number of police officers who kill themselves outnumbering those who die in the line of duty each year, you know we have a problem. Addressing this issue was one of the driving reasons why I was compelled to serve as a state representative.

House Democrats, however, said that the measure mirrors a set of proposals that they called for on Wednesday but was rejected by Republican members. They said the Republican plan funds many of the same programs but at lower levels than their proposals.

“Republicans say they support law enforcement. Yet, just yesterday, they refused millions of dollars for police support and accountability that would have provided critical tools to law enforcement to help rebuild community trust,” said House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.) on Thursday. 

The House-passed plan includes:

  • A maximum $2,000 signing bonuses for new officers
  • Up to $20,000 in tuition assistance to attend local police academies and maximum $4,000 stipends during recruits’ training
  • A work study program to give people an opportunity to consider a career in law enforcement
  • Funding for community policing initiatives 
  • Incentives for expanded use of body cameras
  • Resources for departments to provide de-escalation training
  • State support for rural or “secondary” road patrols

Police policy reform has been an issue at the federal, state and local level in recent years after high-profile incidents involving people of color and police.

The Michigan Legislature action comes nearly one year after state Rep. Tenisha Yancey (D-Harper Woods), Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit), Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) and former Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit), all of whom are Black, offered a plan to improve policing in Michigan in the aftermath of the May 2020 George Floyd killing in Minneapolis. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted last month of murdering Floyd, who was African American. 

Called “Equal Justice for All,” the 2020 Democratic package offered a four-pillar approach to transforming policing and public safety in Michigan to address systemic racial inequities and injustices. The legislation, however, was not taken up by the GOP-led House.

Kenneth Reed of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality called the House action “surface-oriented stuff.” A public schools educator, Reed believes that police officers should have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree before being sworn in.    

“What I’m more concerned about is raising the educational standards for recruits,” said Reed. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.