Mich. hate group bills focus on removing licenses from police officers, arson investigators
Two House bills tackle membership, participation in hate groups and new public expressions of hate
House Bill 5282 specifically refers to arson investigators in several sections beginning with:
“Sec. 9c. (1) This section applies only to individuals who are employed as fire arson investigators from fire departments within villages, cities, townships, or counties in this state, who are sworn and fully empowered by the chiefs of police of those villages, cities, townships, or counties.”
By Jordyn Hermani
LANSING, Mich. — Members of Michigan’s police and fire departments could find themselves out of a job if credibly found to have ties to known hate groups, should a pair of bills introduced in the state House this week become law.
Under House Bill 5281 and 5282, law enforcement officers, firefighters and corrections officers – as well as those who train them – credibly found to have participated in, or hold membership to, a hate group could see their license revoked after an investigation by their department. What constitutes a hate group is additionally outlined under the former of the two bills.
This would also happen if the person were credibly found to have participated in a “public expression of hate,” defined under the bill as any “statement or expression to another individual, including any statement or expression made in an online forum that is accessible to another individual,” which either advocates, supports or explicitly threatens a hate crime, genocide or support for any hate group.
The change, however, would not be held against a person retroactively. If the officer, firefighter or corrections officer in question did hold membership to a hate group in the past, though have ceased affiliating with them for at least seven years – and since at least 18-years of age – then they would not be in danger of potentially losing their career.
Rep. Emily Dievendorf, D-Lansing, is one of the two lead sponsors on the package. She said the package was inspired by a 2006 FBI report which detailed how members of white supremacists groups have a documented presence among law enforcement personnel and the danger that can pose to anti-domestic terrorism efforts.
“For police, state police specifically, they said that the they already do a certain kind and level of screening (for ties to hate groups) but would certainly b open to a requirement of screening for extremism, because it’s a problem for them as well,” Dievendorf said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified 29 “hate and antigovernment groups” operating in Michigan as of 2022, including 12 different chapters of the conservative political nonprofit Moms for Liberty. That’s up an additional eight groups since the Center last put out its annual report on extremist activity in 2021, which found 838 active hate groups operating across the country in 2020.
And, in the wake of the escalating Israel-Hamas war, hate crimes specifically against Americans of Muslim and Jewish faith have also seen an increase within this past year, per data from both the Anti-Defamation League and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The ADL’s Center for Extremism, in an Oct. 25 statement, estimated that reports of harassment, vandalism and assault against Jewish Americans have increased 388% year over year, for a total of 312 antisemitic incidents. CAIR, meanwhile, reported a total of 774 bias-related acts against Muslim-Americans between Oct. 7 and Oct. 24, with its national head quarters seeing a 74% increase in direct reports from August to October.
The uptick prompted Attorney General Dana Nessel to issue a statement Monday, encouraging both members of the public and law enforcement to contact her department’s Hate Crimes and Domestic Terrorism Unit “if they have knowledge of, or are a victim of, a crime motivated by hate.”
Michiganders either the victim of, or with credible information about, a hate crime are encouraged to contact their local police department first, then bring the claim to the Department of Attorney General by email – HateCrimes@michigan.gov – or by calling (313) 456-0180.
“As Attorney General, I created a dedicated unit to investigate and prosecute bias-motived crimes. My Hate Crimes and Domestic Terrorism Unit works with federal, state and local law enforcement partners to ensure crimes of this nature are thoroughly investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Nessel said.
“No one should fear for their safety because of who they are, where they worship — or any other unique attribute that contributes to the diversity of our state.”