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Bill hopes to clarify what to do if ‘stopped by blue’

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published March 7, 2018

LANSING — It really is possible for two sides of our government to come together, especially when it means both law enforcement and civilians will benefit from the effort.

Earlier this month, Michigan Sen. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy; Sen. Vincent Gregory, D-Lathrup Village; and Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, introduced legislation aimed at improving interactions between police officers and drivers during traffic stops. 

The “What to do if stopped by blue” legislation, as it’s been dubbed, would work in three parts. First, the Michigan secretary of state and the Michigan State Police would develop a set of guidelines for drivers to follow upon being pulled over for a violation. Those guidelines would be added to current driver education curriculums so students would be familiarized from an early age on what to do during a stop. The third element would require officers involved in a traffic stop to provide drivers with a business card that contains their contact information, along with the information for their supervisor.

Gregory said the bipartisan bills aim to ease tensions during police interactions by building accountability on both sides.

“The guidelines would be things like keeping your hands on the wheel, sitting still, waiting for the officer’s commands and clarifying on both ends what drivers are expected to do and what officers should be looking for,” he said. “But it’s not just one-sided. The business cards mean those officers are going to work toward transparency in the situation themselves, because now their name is on it.”

The bill also includes the creation of a pamphlet that would summarize the new guidelines for drivers under the age of 25 who are renewing their license. When drivers and officers are both well-versed on how traffic stops should proceed, the chance of a minor misunderstanding developing into something more serious could hopefully be decreased, according to Knollenberg.

“Neither drivers nor the police should be fearful during a traffic stop,” he said in a prepared statement. “I believe these training measures will make all drivers more comfortable and thus put officers at ease. This is a win for all involved parties.”

Gregory said the legislation was modeled after a similar effort adopted in Virginia last year. 

“It was passed by a Democratic committee, a Republican House and signed by a Democratic governor,” he said. “It was totally bipartisan passed, and we’re hoping for the same thing here.”