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Politicians using the police shooting of Patrick Lyoya during an election year: Part III

April 19, 2022

In the past week, we have posted two articles looking at politician responses to the GRPD shooting of Patrick Lyoya, both of which are running for office this fall. The first post involved State Senator Winnie Brinks, and the second post involved Kent County Commissioner Phil Skaggs, who is running for a State Representative seat. 

On Monday, there was another opportunistic politician, who actually met with Patrick Lyoya’s parents. The politician in question, was Governor Gretchen Whitmer. 

Several local news sources reported on the meeting between Gov. Whitmer and Patrick Lyoya’s parents. Most accounts made it clear that the Governor shed tears while viewing the video of the GRPD officer shooting Patrick Lyoya. It was also reported that Gov. Whitmer would not take a position on this case until the Michigan State Police investigation was complete and shared their findings.

One could argue that Whitmer chose to not take a position, because she was actually waiting to gather all of the information from the State Police investigation. This would be, as many people who have never lost someone to state violence, a prudent position to take.

However, I believe that there are other factors involved in Whitmer’s decision to not take a position. In fact, the Governor’s decision not take a position and to focus solely on the grieving family is similar to what the other politicians we have looked at so far. Governor Whitmer has been the recipient of funding from police unions and has backed legislation that would increase funding for the police. 

According to data from the group No More Cop Money, the Whitmer/Gilchrist ticket received $3,000 from police unions in their bid for the Governor’s office in 2018. Whitmer may well be refusing to take a position on the Patrick Lyoya case as she might hope to once again get an endorsement and campaign contributions from police unions in Michigan.

In February, Governor Whitmer announced that for the 2023 Budget, there would be an increase in funding for police. According to her 2/11/2022 Press Release:

Investments

  • Deliver more funds to local governments to help them hire more local police officers, firefighters, EMS, and more. 
  • Launch a campaign to recruit and retain more first responders and Michigan State Troopers. 
  • Dedicate state resources to tackling a wide range of crime including cyber crime, price gouging, and unemployment fraud. 
  • Retention bonuses to local police officers, state troopers, conservation officers, corrections officers, firefighters, EMTs. The budget plan includes a supplemental budget for the current year to provide $30 million to provide payments to state and local law enforcement and public safety personnel. When combined with $20 million in federal ARPA funding as part of the Governor’s proposed MI Safe Communities framework, there would be $50 million provided for total payments. 

Governor Whitmer had stated in 2020, what Joe Biden had said during his Presidential campaign, that they would not defund the police, but provide increased funding for training and officer retention. In addition, it is worth noting that Big Gretch was quoted in an MLive article stating:

Whitmer is encouraging communities to “designate areas for peaceful demonstrations where people can make their voices heard.”

The notion of creating designated protest area is reminiscent of what happen during the George W. Bush administration, where he advocated for Free Speech Zones, which were nothing more than isolating and often corralling protesters in areas that were determined by the police. 

Whitmer’s visit to Grand Rapids on Monday, makes at least three examples of how politicians are using the police killing of Patrick Lyoya in order to win votes in the upcoming election. Any politician should be ashamed of such tactics and those of us who really want justice for Patrick Lyoya, should not support such politicians.

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