State senator introduces legislation increasing penalties for threatening public health officials

Posted at 12:19 PM, Dec 08, 2021

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) introduced legislation Wednesday meant to protect public health workers from threats of violence amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

If passed, it would increase penalties for anyone who threatens to assault, or assaults, a public health official, according to a news release.

Earlier this year, an administrative health officer of the Kent County Health Department was nearly run off the road hours after issuing a mask mandate for the school year.

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Health officials in other counties have also said they’ve received threats from members of their communities.

“Throughout the worst pandemic in a century, Michigan’s public health officials have been working tirelessly to carry out their constitutional duty to protect the public,” Brinks said. “This brave work should be celebrated, not derided. However, like many public servants, their jobs have become increasingly difficult due to misinformation campaigns and threats of physical harm to them and their families.”

Senate Bills 781 and 782 mirror an existing statute protecting Child Protective Services employees, where it is a misdemeanor to threaten physical harm, and felonies for an assault and an assault causing serious impairment.

“Unfortunately, recent reports indicate this problem is not limited to just Kent County, and that many public health officials have even gone so far as to resign because of the seriousness of threats associated with doing their job,” Brinks added. “I cannot stand to see another story detailing the fear these dedicated public servants must live through in order to do their jobs, and I encourage my colleagues to join me in saying, ‘enough is enough.’”