Black Lawmakers Pursue Legislation to Prevent Police Brutality in Michigan

Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) speaks at the state Capitol for the MI Body MI Choice event on Oct. 2, 2021. (Allison R. Donahue/Michigan Advance)

By Michigan Advance

February 2, 2023

Michigan legislators said the nation can remove itself from ‘shackles of police brutality it has created.”


MICHIGAN—Members of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus on Tuesday continued their call for police reform after the fatal beating of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tenn.

“Enough is enough,” said state Rep. Donavan McKinney (D-Detroit), 30, who is African American, during a news conference at the state Capitol.

His comments spoke to several fatal encounters of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement officers.

“Police brutality in our country has become a fabric in our everyday lives … that could have been me, or my younger brother or my one-year son,” said McKinney.

Nichols, who was Black, died on Jan. 10 after a traffic stop on Jan. 7. Five former Memphis Police Department officers Desmond Mills, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin, Tadarrius Bean and Demetrius Haley were charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault and other offenses in connection to Nichols’ death. The men, who were all Black, were terminated on Jan. 20, according to an NBC news report.

All five are scheduled to be arraigned in mid-February. A sixth man has been “relieved of duty,” authorities said on Monday. Officer Preston Hemphill is on paid administrative leave “pending the outcome of the investigation.” Hemphill is white.

In previous sessions, Michigan House and Senate Democrats have introduced police reform legislation to address police brutality, no-knock warrants, and other matters such as funding for training. Most of the legislation was not taken up by the GOP-led state House and Senate. 

However, Senate Appropriations Committee Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), the first Black woman to chair the key panel, said her colleagues plan to reintroduce the measures. Anthony said the MLBC and other state lawmakers will also partner with organizations to address the issues centering on law enforcement.

“We’re going to have to have some hard conversations,” said state Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), who is Afro-Latina and the MLBC chair. 

The MLBC news conference was a follow up to its Saturday written statement, which read, in part: 

“This country can remove itself from the very shackles of police brutality that it has created and enact real reforms where public safety is indeed safe, where accountability for the unconscionable is swift and permanent, where families and entire communities are not routinely traumatized by those who have sworn to serve and protect, and where we are all served and protected. 

“We are called on — mandated — to address and correct the systems that perpetuate harm against individuals and communities. We must do it now and the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus is committed to working with our community partners to reach for and achieve the meaningful changes that our community demands and deserves.”

This story was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.


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