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Michigan House Democrats introduce police reform bills

police offices stand at a protest in Detroit
Lester Graham

Some state House Democrats are proposing a bill package they say would bring transformational change to policing in Michigan.

Members of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus and the House’s Detroit Caucus introduced the sixteen-bill package on Tuesday.

The bills are wide-ranging. Among other things, they would ban using chokeholds, no-knock warrants, and require police to notify a minor’s parent or guardian before questioning them. Other bills would make police disciplinary records public, and prohibit volunteer law enforcement.

The representatives were joined in their announcement by Tamika Palmer and Tawanna Gordon, the mother and cousin of Breonna Taylor. Taylor was killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky executing a drug-related no-knock warrant last year.

“Warrants executed in the middle of the night are too dangerous to citizens and officers alike,” Palmer said. “No amount of drugs is ever worth taking the life of someone. It's necessary that we ban no-knock warrants so that no other parent has to receive the call that I received in the wee hours of the morning on March 13, 2020.”

We are not here today to reduce the number of percentages of police killings,” added Representative Tenisha Yancey (D-Harper Woods). “We are here to save lives. Each and every person who lost their life at the hands of the police was a human being who deserved to be respected and protected.”

One bill in the package would get rid of qualified immunity. That legal concept limits police accountability, and can be a hurdle to prosecuting police misconduct. Representative Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield Township) said eliminating qualified immunity is a “practical and effective” way to restore public trust in policing.

“We cannot continue to ask the public to put their faith in an institution that regularly employs individuals who are not held accountable for their egregious conduct,” Brabec said. “We just can’t do that anymore.”

Police officials, unions, and many Republicans strongly oppose eliminating qualified immunity. But other parts of the sixteen-bill package have some bipartisan support.

A companion package of police reform bills are currently in the works in the Michigan Senate.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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