Michigan GOP wants to let rich people set up their own police forces


If a big-money conservative donor gets his way during the lame-duck session, Michigan could create a two-tier police system — one for the rich, and one for everyone else.

During the 2017-2018 session of the Michigan legislature, GOP Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof introduced a bill that would have allowed the creation of "special police agencies" — private police forces run by for-profit corporations.

It's a bill so poorly thought out that even law enforcement officials in Michigan oppose it. The head of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police noted that under the law, even the KKK could create its own private police force. The past president of the association called it "a mercenary force to police in some of our communities."

The measure died in committee. But now, law enforcement officials are worried that the GOP majority may try to get it passed before December 31 in the lame-duck session.

Supporters of the bill have argued that it would give greater security options to business groups, but that's actually part of the problem. It creates a two-tier police system in the state — one for the rich, and one for everyone else.

Private police would enjoy key privileges like governmental immunity, but wouldn't have to follow the same rules as regular police. For instance, private police wouldn't have to provide information under the state's Freedom of Information Act, and they wouldn't necessarily have to meet the same training standards as municipal forces do.

The bill is also a giveaway to a rich conservative donor, J.C. Huizenga, who has been very generous to Meekhof. Huizenga donated over $250,000 within the state of Michigan for 2015-2016, and has given Meekhof $20,000 since 2013.

Huizenga also just happens to own three private police agencies in North Carolina, where about 10 percent of the force is private police.

Since the private police bill didn't have enough support to make it through the regular session, there's hope that it would stall again this time around.

But as Meekhof is already busy using the lame duck session to try to gut the state's minimum wage law, it's clear he is just fine with using the session to rush legislation through — whether it reflects the will of the people or not.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.