Senate approves Jones’ police ‘bad behavior’ bill

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday unanimously approved Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation to ensure that a police officer’s bad behavior will not be hidden by that officer’s resignation.

“As a former sheriff, I know how important it is for the community to have trust in their local law enforcement officers,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “While the overwhelming majority of our police officers and sheriff deputies are outstanding public servants, it only takes one bad apple to spoil the public’s trust. Building trust in the community starts with ensuring that bad behavior is not tolerated, and that is the purpose of this bill.”

Senate Bill 223 would require a law enforcement agency to maintain a record regarding the reason for and the circumstances surrounding a separation of service from a police department.

The bill would allow a prospective employing law enforcement agency to seek a copy of reasons and circumstances surrounding the separation.

Jones worked on the legislation after learning that an Eaton County sheriff deputy, who was accused of making an “abusive and improper arrest” in 2014, resigned and got a job with another sheriff department.

“I was surprised and disappointed when I read about the actions of a deputy working in a department that I once led and in which I dedicated most of my life,” said Jones, a former Eaton County sheriff. “However, I was deeply upset to learn that the deputy was not fired or charged and — while the county was negotiating a settlement as a result of his actions — he was able to leave and get a job with another sheriff’s department.”

In a 2016 article, a reporter described how he obtained video of a June 2014 traffic stop through the Freedom of Information Act. The deputy in the video was not wearing his body camera, but the young man who was stopped recorded the incident with his cell phone.

The article described how the man was stopped for having a tail light out and then an “abusive and improper arrest” was made. After the video surfaced, the man was released from jail and was not charged by the prosecutor.

SB 223 has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.