Statewide standards aim to improve relations between police and communities

Posted at 7:52 PM, Oct 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-05 08:07:22-04

Police departments across the state will soon have new guidelines to improve relationships between officers and the community. On Tuesday Gov. Rick Snyder signed a set of bills giving that responsibility to a state police commission.

Officers in Lansing are already taking their own steps to improve their community policing.

"We need to lead with kindness and embed that into our policies," said Mayor Virg Bernero. "Black lives matter, blue lives matter, all lives matter. These should not be incendiary slogans these should not ignite anger in anybody."

That's why Bernero says officers in Lansing are constantly looking at ways to improve training and police practices.

"We're here to protect and serve," Bernero said. "Not to protect and serve ourselves but to protect and serve the community and that ethic is ingrained in the department."

Now Lansing is launching a kindness initiative to bring the community into that effort. It would name Lansing a "City of Kindness" hosting various community events and service opportunities. It's something two other cities have done.

"We're going to improve our community," Bernero said. "We're going to keep our community safe by being united by all of us looking out for our neighbor."

But as incidents involving police make national headlines, like the recent shooting of an unarmed man in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Gov. Snyder says that's leading to negative perceptions of officers in Michigan. So he's hoping a state police commission will set standards for officers across the state to help build back trust.

"It's good to have more standards and have those standards be applicable across the board," Snyder said. "Getting consistency, certainty and higher standards is a good thing."

One of the areas the commission is looking at is teaching officers how to de-escalate a situation and that includes things like traffic stops. These standards would be for departments across the state, so no matter where an officer works, they would have the same requirements.

"I don't think we should dismiss anything though because sometimes you need to sweat the small stuff so they won't become big issues," said State Police Director Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue.

It's an attitude Bernero say will only help Lansing.

"An ugly incident is not going to happen in Lansing," he added.

The commission will have four months to make its recommendation for those state-wide police guidelines.