We are seeing more and more athletes and activists protesting the increase in racism, police brutality, and killings, either through simply kneeling or linking arms during sports games, or by huge protests. Strangely, the protests seem to bring even more police brutality and illegal police behavior, which only further verifies the need to protest and speak out against the problems.
Not much seems to be happening in most areas of the country regarding policies to help stop this illegal activity which typically goes unpunished.
Stephanie Chang, a State Representative from Michigan, realized there are big problems that need addressed before they get worse, and she has proposed a bill that would require Michigan to track police shootings and other use of force complaints.
She wrote for the Detroit Free Press:
This summer, I reintroduced legislation in the state House of Representatives called the Use of Force by Law Enforcement Reporting Act. After I was elected in 2014, this was one of the very first bills I requested. I remember feeling a sense of urgency about introducing the bill as soon as possible, given the Michael Brown and Tamir Rice cases, but I continued gathering feedback from stakeholders.
The depressing and infuriating reality is that the bill, no matter when it was introduced, would be timely and needed. Media reports and social media videos of people being shot by the police just kept coming. Recent statements and social media posts from elected and appointed officials in our country and state indicate that many in power still do not understand the deep impact of these incidents on our families and communities.
House Bill 4827 would require police departments to submit an annual report to the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) with the number and type of certain use-of-force complaints made against officers of that department, the number of officer-involved shootings in that department, the results of any investigations of those incidents, and the racial, ethnic and gender demographics of those involved.
We need to increase law enforcement transparency by requiring local law enforcement agencies to provide the data regarding use of force and shooting incidents.
I truly believe that the relationship between law enforcement and community can only be strengthened through increased accountability and transparency about what is happening on our streets. Right now, we have no publicly available statewide data about these incidents and who they are impacting. While some law enforcement agencies may track partial information, there is no central repository or public report.
Police officers put their lives on the line to serve and protect, and I know some great officers in my district. I recognize the efforts law enforcement is making in many communities to promote public safety and police-community relations. But our communities need and deserve better.
There is increasing attention across the country on race and our criminal justice system. Having more easily accessible public information about shooting incidents and the use of force would help community members, law enforcement stakeholders and policymakers better understand any police conduct issues that need to be addressed locally and across the state and help us tackle these problems. Community relations can only improve safety for both the officers on the streets and the residents they are sworn to protect.
It is time to act. Whether you choose to kneel, link arms, start a conversation with a community member of a different racial background or contact your elected official —none of us can just sit by.
We can start by passing legislation such as HB 4827, so we can have an accurate picture of officer-involved shootings and use-of-force incidents in Michigan. Our country is grappling with big issues of race, and having this information will serve us well to begin tackling these issues right here at home.
Dealing with these issues on a state, and even on a local level should allow the problems to be addressed once the information is collected. Many times even the offenders do not realize how bad they are until the factual information is right in front of their face. Continuing to ignore the problems will only make them worse.
(Article By Jeremiah Jones)