Policing Act Ramifications Update
Posted on May 6, 2021
POAM Legislative Director penned a letter to the Michigan members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives about the upcoming federal police reform legislation/policing act. See the letter below to learn more.
Dt: May 5, 2021
Re: Federal Police Reform Legislation
Dear U.S. Representatives and Senators:
The Police Officers Association of Michigan (POAM) is Michigan’s largest law enforcement organization and represents over 12,500 rank-and-file officers, first responders, and associated law enforcement personnel across Michigan, located in every region, county, and Congressional District.
I am writing to convey our organizations’ thoughts regarding ongoing discussions on police reform legislation. When reviewing police reform, we urge your careful consideration of the impact on Michigan’s communities and their law enforcement officers.
Members of Michigan’s law enforcement and our organization support improving policing practices, particularly regarding ensuring greater transparency, accountability, and training in law enforcement. We have consistently advocated and supported these measures to make policing better and improve our profession. We have worked in Lansing and Washington to achieve those goals and continue to advocate on behalf of these objectives.
We often hear the calls for further reform and additional transparency from community members and elected officials. We will continue these conversations and believe there are areas we can agree on to build community trust and relationships, improve policing, and move forward together as a state and nation. One of the areas that we believe is often misunderstood and a major concern to front-line officers is the principle of qualified immunity. It is an essential legal provision for government officials, including law enforcement, which balances the public interest and helps build trust in public officials, including police officers. We know it is particularly essential in recruiting and retaining quality police officers.
Qualified immunity protects a police officer from civil liability in the performance of their official responsibilities and if their conduct does not violate clearly established laws or constitutional rights which should be known to a reasonable officer. Those that act incompetently or who knowingly violate the law are not protected by qualified immunity and face legal repercussions. The doctrine is necessary to protect officers acting reasonably while ensuring frivolous lawsuits to not proceed against officers.
In the end, we believe we all share the same goals of improving trust between citizens and law enforcement, decreasing the number of deadly encounters with peace officers, funding important public safety needs of agencies across the state, and ensuring our officers in Michigan are some of the best-trained in the country. Let’s continue our partnership and working together as these bills progress in Washington, D.C.
Kenneth E. Grabowski,
Legislative Director, POAM
Posted on March 5, 2021
On Wednesday, March 3, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (HR1280), 220 to 212. Touted as a police reform measure, the bill passed along nearly straight party lines, with only 2 Democrats voting NO, against the bill.
The bill was drafted last summer in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN, and was quickly passed in the House only to die in the Senate. Vigorously criticized by POAM and many other national police organizations for a number of issues, especially due to the elimination of “qualified immunity” protections for law enforcement. Tanking this protection, for officers involved in the use of force encounters, results due to changes to the legal standard of “objective reasonableness” to “only when necessary” thus eliminating legal protection for police officers in these situations.
These changes remove any legal protections for officers while making it easier to prosecute them for mistakes on the job, not just criminal acts.
POAM has worked diligently to inform Members of Congress of these problems and congratulates Congressman Fred Upton (R, MI-6th) for switching his earlier vote and voting NO on Wednesday. The bill now moves to the Senate where its prospects remain uncertain.
Posted on March 2, 2021
On Friday, February 26, 2021, the POAM Legislation team penned a letter to the entire Michigan Congressional Delegation regarding the recent House action on the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.” Read the full letter and view the full bill below.
Dear Michigan Congressional Delegation,
Following the recent House action on the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,” we urge you to carefully review the ramifications of any such legislation. Please be advised, a push to quickly pass an act to address many legitimate societal concerns, without real reform would be a serious mistake. To simply rush forward appears to be a political move to check off a box rather than an honest attempt to develop policies to improve policing practices in America. The Police Officers Association of Michigan supports improving policing practices, particularly regarding ensuring greater transparency, accountability, and training in law enforcement. We have consistently advocated and supported these measures to make policing better and improve our profession.
Police officers are often expected to do everything, fix the ills of society, correct improper parenting, have an answer to every question, and deal with the most violent elements of society at the same time without hurting or offending anyone. Many times, officers are challenged by individuals seeking to create an incident. Across the state of Michigan, many police departments are understaffed, officers are overworked, underpaid, and disrespected — no one wants the job anymore. Our communities are experiencing trouble recruiting new candidates, standards have been lowered and past questionable behavior is ignored just to fill positions. At the same time, for the past decade, many communities have defunded police departments. The results of this underfunding are clear; pensions have been cut or eliminated, pay frozen and reduced, health care cut for active employees, and eliminated for retirees.
Today, those that are willing to enter the profession see their decisions often seconded guessed like no other occupation, their actions are recorded, videotaped, documented, their positions are always known from GPS. And if mistakes are made, every police officer is considered guilty, convicted in the media, and from “MOB” mentality, without the basic dueprocess rights afforded to any criminal. Additionally, this is one of the few professions, where if a mistake is made, you could lose your job and go to jail.
We urge you to consider that instead of passing legislation that may not be needed, we should allow our judicial system to work. It is a fact that across America police officers that violate laws and rules are charged criminally, convicted, disciplined, and fired from their jobs.
When the time is taken to actually investigate the facts, you will find justice is being served on all parties. We are asking you to support law enforcement, investigate the facts, be aware of the MOB mentality.
We thank you for your time and consideration and stand ready to assist you and your colleagues in working to create a more transparent and open criminal justice system.
Kenneth E. Grabowski, Legislative Director
Police Officers Association of Michigan
Questions and Comments
Please feel free to contact POAM with any questions, concerns, or further information. As this topic continues to develop, POAM will bring you the latest news. Come back to our website regularly, as well as follow us on social, sign up for our monthly email newsletter, and download our mobile app.