State senator pushes for more training of police officers before they can wear the badge

"If you engage every citizen and every interaction is colored with this us vs. them mentality that's how violent interactions get started," said Sen. Jeff Irwin.

Irwin, a Michigan Democratic senator, believes that boils down to training and he wants new police officers, troopers and deputies in Michigan to have more of it, before they can put on a badge.

"Here in the state of Michigan since 2015, 77 people have been fatally shot by police," he said. "And despite the fact that only 13 percent of our population is black, 50 percent of those people who were shot were non-white and the majority of those, were black folks."

Irwin is behind a bill that would beef up training in implicit bias, de-escalation techniques, and mental health screening.

"We need to give our officers tools to be able to identify that kind of behavior and the techniques to de-escalate those situations don't end up in somebody dying."

Irwin says he's been working on this issue for years --- but the introduction of the bill could not be more timely.

Law enforcement officers are entering another round of intense scrutiny: a white deputy is under investigation for repeatedly punching a black woman in Ypsilanti.

Deep seated frustration surfaced in the form of civil unrest in Minneapolis where George Floyd, a black man, died after a white officer dug his knee into a restrained Floyd's neck, holding it there for several minutes.

"Even when one officer engages in excessive force, we all share the disappointment for the dishonor it brings to our badge," said Chief James Craig.

Craig, the Detroit Police chief, addressed the incident Thursday. Alongside him, Rev. Wendell Anthony and community activists Negus Vu and Teferi Brent.

"Any kind of controls you can put in place to kind of controls you can put into place to address the possibilities of the white supremacist in a police department, you have to do it," said Brent of the Urban Peace and Justice Movement. "In 2006, the FBI put out a bulletin to all police departments especially those in urban centers, that white supremacist organizations and individuals who embrace the tenants of white supremacy, are trying to infiltrate police departments."

But Bob Stevenson, executive director of the Michigan Association of Police Chiefs says much of the training that would be mandated under Irwin's bill is already in place at basic training academies and the bigger issue is financial.
"Training funds for Michigan officers have been steadily reduced over the past 20 years and we are hearing there will be further budget cuts. Mandated classes at the academy are not the solution. The solution is to properly fund all law enforcement training."