MICHIGAN – As the relationships between law enforcement and political groups and certain communities throughout the country have been increasingly fractured, Governor Rick Snyder and Michigan lawmakers took a proactive step last week even if there are no high-profile conflicts recently.
Considering that conflicts could happen just like in any other state, the governor took preemptive initiatives and signed an executive directive and a multi-bill package that instructs the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) to review and update its standards for police officer conduct, The Detroit News editorial reads.
The executive directives instruct the commission to consider the status of community relationships and what factors might upset the public’s trust of law enforcement. Public events will be held across the state to determine what communities have the most threatened relations with the police.
There’s an option for the plan to use outside review, but the law enforcement agencies will discern the level of trust and risk in the various communities and the reasons for poor relations.
Review of training requirements for police officers is deemed necessary in improving community relations, which include de-escalation techniques in dealing with the mentally ill and training how to recognize an implicit bias. As many of the controversies that led to civil unrest stemmed from failure in meeting those needs, the training is considered vital.
One example is the step considered by the Detroit Police Department, considering an increase in the use of Tasers. Simple changes like that could prevent unnecessary deaths in complicated standoffs between police officers and citizens.
To promote transparency and accountability, Detroit also started to embrace the technology using body cameras to capture interactions between police officers and the public. It is supported by Snyder despite the issues on privacy rights and payment for cameras.
As the operating costs related to the use of body cameras as well as the expenses for video storage and review require a huge sum of money, police departments are expected to apply cost-saving measures like reviewing the tapes only when certain conflicts arise.
In May, Detroit City Council approved a $5.2 million contract to equip police in Michigan’s largest city with 1,500 body cameras. Currently, about 50-law enforcement agencies in Michigan either have body cameras or are testing them, but the implementation and operating costs for keeping the videos is the biggest deterrent.
However, as body cameras have to be manually turned on, unlike in-car cameras that automatically turn on in cases involving flashing lights and siren, accelerating speeds, impact, and open rear door, an officer has to be mindful of what he has to do as the need arises.
Many officers are (either earnestly or conveniently) forgetting to activate their cameras when they’re supposed… https://t.co/SYyV7l10Lp
— MichiganCPR (@MichiganCPR) October 3, 2016
Ultimately, a significant factor to consider is the human element. How an officer reacts to pressure and how he or she perceives an incident, and whether there’s an imminent threat that puts a life at risk. These factors can trigger how he or she will respond to a certain confrontation.
Nevertheless, Snyder’s actions are considered to be a proactive step to prevent further strain on police and community relationships. Review and analyzation of results may lead to future remedies.