Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined the speaker lineup at the 2021 POAM Annual Convention. During her speech at the POAM Seminar, she pointed out her support for law enforcement and her plans to back our members up during her time in public office. See the video below to hear her entire speech.
Thank you all for having me here today. I really appreciate the opportunity to address everyone. First of all, let me start by taking a moment to remember the life of Kalamazoo Deputy Ryan Proxmire. We will forever be indebted to you and to the sacrifice that you and your family have made in order to protect the public. He will not be forgotten. He was just a couple of years ago when I spoke at the dedication of the Michigan Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. And at that time, five hundred and eighty-eight fallen police officers were engraved. Their names were engraved in stone to commemorate their service. And now Deputy Proxmire, unfortunately, will be another somber addition to that list. But it reminds us all of the sacrifices each and every one of you makes each and every day you leave your homes and go to work.
So all of us in elected office should and must do better of a job of reminding the public of the importance of our jobs and how it is impossible for us to live in a safe and secure first society world without you and without your work and without supporting a healthy law enforcement presence. So I am sure that as you’re all sitting here listening to me, you’re asking yourself now. Well, Attorney General Nessel, what the hell are you doing? Do you support law enforcement? And you might know that statutorily. Constitutionally, I am considered the top law enforcement official in the state of Michigan.
So I’m sure you’re asking yourself, as you should be. What are you doing to support us? What are you doing to support the police? Well, if you are asking, that is a great question, and that’s why I’m here to answer that for you. So if you think that I am a progressive Democrat, you’d be right. I am. And I fought hard for various types of criminal justice reforms. I helped draft and testified in support of the most recent package of expungement bills that went into effect in April that for the first time allows for things like first time OWI offenses, drive license suspended offenses, marijuana convictions, and other kinds of sometimes decades-old convictions to be wiped off a somebodies record long after they have served their sentence on that offense.
And I do absolutely believe that it helps people later in life become contributing members of society when they can get a job, where they can find an apartment they can live in when they get an education when they can seek a professional license. So absolutely, I’ve done that and I’ve worked with law enforcement in various places and in Flint, in Kalamazoo, in Detroit, in order to host expungement fairs hand in hand with law enforcement. I created a conviction integrity unit where we investigate alleged wrongful convictions, where we work again, hand in hand with the investigating agency who was on the case, as well as the local prosecutor in order to exonerate defendants where new evidence is introduced that demonstrates that these individuals have been wrongfully convicted and that they are factually innocent of the crimes of which they were convicted.
So I have done that. I’ve also expanded my public integrity unit in our department, and we evaluate allegations of illegal conduct by law enforcement and other public officials as well. But we do so you should know only at the request of the law enforcement agency or the local prosecutor. And yes, we have charged a number of police officers with crimes, but we have cleared even more. Even in the face of tremendous political backlash. And while it is definitely not my job to exonerate those who have engaged in criminal activity, neither is it my job to charge an officer who is doing his or her job to the best of their ability and the best that can be expected under the circumstances that they encounter.
It’s my belief that only when we hold all sworn public officials accountable for their actions can we build trust and faith with the communities that we serve. But you should also know that I am a former long-time assistant prosecutor from Wayne County, and I handled some of the most difficult cases you can imagine gang violence, child homicides, serial rapists and serial killers, murder ones to assault and batteries, and everything in between. And I am well aware of all the challenges that police officers face. And I personally worked with at least a dozen of those fallen officers whose names are now inscribed in the memorial that I spoke of.
And that’s why since the first day that I kicked off my campaign to run for A.G. in 2017, and every day since then, I have argued consistently against the concept of defunding the police. And instead, the police and the departments in which they serve deserve better funding, better resources, better salaries, more in the way of life insurance, medical, dental, and optical insurance, and the best retirement benefits that money can buy. Along with the best training and equipment. And yes, we need more social workers and substance abuse counselors. And I’ve never met a single cop who has argued otherwise.
But that is not a substitute for the hard work that each of you does and the need for police. And I have argued vigorously against many of the reforms my Democratic colleagues have supported. So, for instance, I am the only member of the pretrial detention and jail task force that abstained from supporting the package of proposals. And, yes, there were some very good ideas in there that need to be addressed, but also some that were, frankly, very bad and very dangerous ideas, too. And we need to be more cautious and circumspect about the changes that we make, especially during the course of a once-in-a-century global pandemic. And that includes things like bond and sentencing guidelines. And when an officer should arrest an individual versus when someone should be issued a citation.
Now, I fought against repealing truth in sentencing. I believe that victims ought to have a firm and easy-to-understand sentence for those who have injured them and those who have caused them great harm. And I was a prosecutor before truth in sentencing became the law of this state. And I remember what it was like to have to get a call from a crying victim whose assailant had been released long before anyone expected. And I don’t want to go back to those days. I support maintaining qualified immunity. Which the public has never, ever understood. And I don’t want any of you to have to go out on the job and worry the entire time about having to potentially lose your house or have your family become bankrupt.
All Democrats who serve as prosecutors are not the same. And I don’t have the same policies in place that some of my progressive prosecutor colleagues have opted for. So, for instance, I believe that charging decisions should be made based on three things the evidence, the facts, and the law. And I’ve told police agencies, you should know in Washtenaw County and Ingham County that if their prosecutors will not handle cases with suspects who jeopardize public safety, then they should come to the Department of Attorney General. And I will. I sued the drug manufacturers and distributors that. In large part, we’re responsible for the opioid crisis, which you’ve had to deal with on a daily basis for decades now, which my law and order predecessors refused to do.
And in doing so, I should tell you, I’ve already brought in eight hundred and twenty million dollars to the state. We have about another 200 million dollars that I think we’ll be bringing in in the next few weeks in terms of some settlements. I. And so soon, that’ll be over a billion dollars, and I’m sure you’re wondering where that money’s going to go and if you’re ever going to spend their money. And I will say this, I am making sure through the settlement process that my office is helping to construct that that money is not just going to go to the state where it’s going to be used for God knows what.
That instead that money is going to go directly to the counties, to the cities, and to the townships where it can be used for things like money going into the jails for treatment and emergency services and drug treatment programs and things that your communities badly need so that we know exactly where that money is going. My department’s also worked hand-in-hand with locals to assist on large-scale criminal sexual conduct cases. And you might be aware of our clergy abuse investigation in which we’ve uncovered, unfortunately, hundreds and hundreds of victims and even more predators. And we’ve charged over a dozen. And the Boy Scouts of America investigation that we started where, unfortunately, we believe there to be some three thousand victims in the state of Michigan.
And those prosecutions are going to be ensuing soon. I. We are also working hand in hand with law enforcement in my elder abuse task force, where we helped to craft the new law enforcement investigation form that I hope all of you are now using. And we provide video trainings to help assist officers in better understand these complex, sometimes very complex cases. Some 73000 cases of elder abuse, neglect, and economic exploitation each and every year. And we help to provide things like forensic accountants on these cases and to work in conjunction with the locals, whether we’re working with the local prosecutors or whether they decide to refer the case to us. And we are handling hundreds and hundreds of those kinds of cases, which I know affect each and every community around the state.
And then we have all kinds of other cases that we handle that are crimes that, frankly, the locals are just not equipped to deal with. And that’s things like illegal robocalls. And we’ve prosecuted many, many of those cases that have come to millions of millions of Michiganders and scammed many people, probably many people that all of you know, we’ve helped to obtain restitution of millions of dollars on consumer-related scams, which is something that, again, is a sort of a unique posture for the Department of Attorney General to be able to take these cases where it’s sometimes too difficult and really not suited to local prosecutors offices and many more types of consumer-related activities, including right now, me going after the utility companies because I assume that I am not the only one here who has lost power numerous times over the course of this summer and lost a lot of money along with it.
And so we’re working hard to hold them accountable. But here are some other things that we’re doing. As soon as the Ricky Jack case came down from the Court of appeals, I personally proposed legislation to protect the personal information, both victims and witnesses, including police officer witnesses, to make sure that defendants don’t have access to the unredacted police reports that have addresses, cell phone numbers, email addresses and Social Security numbers of victims and witnesses.
How many people here even know that that decision came down recently? Anybody? Ok. A few people do. It’s dangerous as hell is what it is, and it’s hard enough to find witnesses that will work with the police, to begin with. We certainly don’t need a set of circumstances where people think that their information is going to be directly turned over to a defendant in the case. I crafted legislation on that. I very much hope that you will be in support of my efforts to get that legislation passed. Those bills are pending right now. They badly, badly need to be made into law and signed immediately. Now, yes, I have asked ampoules to be expanded and have the ability to take a more aggressive posture on investigations and disciplinary measures when officers are accused of violating their oath of office.
But only the exact same way that we hold all other professional licenses accountable, including attorneys, doctors, CPAs. Dennis. The list goes on and on. And here’s why. Because here’s what we know. And I know that all of you know it as well. A few bad cops can tarnish the reputation of an entire department and ruin all the good work that the majority of cops put their sweat, their tears, and yes, their blood into in terms of working with the community and building and earning their trust. And let me just use this as an example, not just for my profession, but for my department. In 2019, I discovered that one of our specially assigned sexual assault prosecutors was altering reports, violate violating long-established prosecutorial protocols and.
Having sexual relationships with the victims in his case is. Now, can you imagine that? Now, ultimately, he was able to be charged with misconduct in office, and as part of his conviction, he was stripped of his law license, but only because the victim decided to cooperate, which was really a struggle and touch and go for a long time. But if not for the fact that we were able to file a complaint with the attorney grievance commission and their ability to discipline him and to strip him of his license, we could never be assured that he would lose his law license at all, which I hope you’ll all agree with me.
Someone like that does not deserve to have a law license. And we couldn’t even be assured that I would have had the ability to fire him from my office. Now, this man was an embarrassment to the entire profession of prosecutors and lawyers in general. And just like I never want to see him put his name on the record on behalf of the people of the state ever again, neither should any of you want cops who disgraced the profession, walking around carrying a gun and a badge. And those few individuals and we know that they are few and far in between can cost a good cop their livelihood and their life. And I’m sure none of you wants to be partnered with somebody like that. And that’s why.
Yes, I want cops who reflect the best of law enforcement. But again, I also want you to have the best training, the best equipment, and the best compensation. And I will always support the police and work with you to ensure that you have the ability to keep your communities safe and be a very, very loud and obnoxious voice, encouraging the legislature too. Appropriately appropriate money to the municipalities and not to starve your departments through lack of revenue sharing. And especially now of all times when the state has this enormous budget, a great deal of that should be going to law enforcement. Now, starting next month, my department will be featuring an officer of the month where we highlight the work of an officer, a deputy, a trooper, and the work that they do in their community.
And I know that some of you right now are rolling your eyes and think that that’s a gimmick. But let me say this. By broadcasting the stories and the work of individual officers around the state, I very much hope to help restore the image of our police during a time when, as we know, that image has been battered and bruised so that the public better understands the great importance of law enforcement and the incredible public servants who each and every day put their heads down and do the work without praise, without fanfare, even under the most difficult circumstances. And during the most difficult times now.
You and I, we are not going to agree on everything 100 percent of the time. We’re not. Some of my policies, you won’t agree with some of my decisions. You’re not going to agree with, but this is my commitment to you, and that is to spend the rest of my days in public office doing as much as I can to assist law enforcement and doing their jobs and to highlight your work and to ensure that law enforcement is treated with the respect and the dignity of which your profession is so deserving. So I thank each and every one of you for your service, and I look forward to continuing to work together.
Great game, you know.