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Wayne State's national de-escalation program aims to prevent excessive use of force

Posted at 5:10 PM, May 11, 2022

(WXYZ) — Cases like Laquan McDonald in Chicago, George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the most recent, Patrick Lyoya in Michigan, have triggered the debate of when force by a law enforcement officer is necessary.

In metro Detroit, a local bouncer fell victim to excessive force by an officer on April 28. The entire incident was caught on camera.

"I just wanted it to end, and I would still be alive," Michael Kennebrew said.

Kennebrew works as a bouncer at Minnie's Bar and Grill in Detroit.

On April 28, he was assaulted by a Detroit Police officer after walking into the bar. The incident was captured on surveillance video. A female officer reportedly asked if he had a firearm.

"She reached for me and I turned around ... I said, 'Why you are grabbing me?' ... And the male officer just attacked me," Kennebrew said.

Fearing for his life, Kennebrew says he continued to take the beating while other officers intervened. "They told me they were charging me with assault on an officer and taking me to jail," he said.

Kennebrew's attorney Todd Perkins says that was a blatant disregard of the law.

"If he were to take that type of behavior towards those officers, not only could he be charged but he could be killed," Perkins said.

Over at Wayne State University, on-campus police have recently launched a National De-escalation Training Center.

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Here, the finest from various jurisdictions are trained in how to take down situations without the use of excessive force, something Officer Andrew Sheppard says should never be an option.

"Instead of getting into a fight with you, I rather say, 'Hey man, let's talk this out. Whatever you did is not that bad,'" Sheppard said.

Sheppard believes that when police use excessive force during confrontations, officers are "letting personal issues get above the job."

According to data collected by the Washington Post, last year, at least 1,055 people were shot and killed by police nationwide. That’s more than the 1,021 shootings in 2020 and the 999 in 2019.

"We as officers go through a divorce, we also go through ... PTSD. Again, we are human. We don’t know what's in the background of some of these police officers. We don’t know what's in the background in some of these citizens," Sheppard said.

But at the same time, people do say they hold law enforcement officers to a higher standard.

"And rightfully so," Sheppard said.

According to Sheppard, the solution to preventing the use of excessive force is more training.

Wayne State's national de-escalation program is a two-day long course that equips attending officers with various skills to handle on-job situations professionally and humanely.

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One of them is understanding an individual’s mental health.

"We got to know that this person may be suffering from some type of mental illness just by maybe the questions we may ask. Just by the body language that they may supply or just by the physical nature of their dress," Sheppard said.

When asked what is preventing police departments from providing officers with more training, Sheppard's response was "money, budgets, [and] resources."

In a statement, DPD’s Chief James White says he is "deeply troubled and concerned after watching the surveillance video," of Michael Kennebrew. "I have directed our Force Investigations Unit to immediately launch an investigation. The officer has been removed from the unit pending the outcome. Our community deserves and expects policing excellence and anything less is unacceptable,” he continues.