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Nessel says AG office is 'best suited' to handle cases like Lyoya death investigation

Nessel said if the case were referred to her office, they would take it.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Michigan's Attorney General Dana Nessel said her office would take the investigation into the death of Patrick Lyoya if it were referred to her office.

The AG's office is not currently involved. Michigan State Police is investigating the GRPD's use of deadly force in the death of Lyoya. If charges were brought, they would likely be referred to the Kent County Prosecutor.

RELATED: Here's what's next in the investigation into the shooting death of Patrick Lyoya by a Grand Rapids Police officer

However, Nessel said Wednesday in Kalamazoo her office would be "best suited" to handle those cases because they can remain impartial. 

"We don't have those kinds of relationships where we have to work one-on-one with local police officers," said Nessel, "Not just that we can be more impartial, but from the standpoint of the public, I think it just looks terrible when you have a prosecutor who has some sort of direct contact and relationship with that police officer."

She called the optics "not good." 

"It's not that I don't trust [Kent County] Prosecutor Becker," said Nessel, "I assume that he's going do the right thing, and will follow the facts and the evidence and the law. But just that our department is often better situated for those reasons. We would take it if he referred it to us."

Nessel said the AG's office cannot tell MSP where to send their investigation. 

Meanwhile, groups of people are planning to rally at the Capitol in Lansing Thursday, calling for justice for Lyoya, police reform, among other things. 

Nessel said she testified before the state senate a few years ago, working with MSP to create a list of police reforms. 

"So together, our departments from Attorney General, Michigan State Police said, 'here are things that we need to see,'" said Nessel, "I testified, the bills died and went nowhere."

She said one of the main things is Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) needs to be empowered to have oversight abilities. She compared the issue to professional licensing boards. For example, an attorney who violated their oath of conduct could have their license stripped. She wants to see that same idea applied to law enforcement. 

"Let's say you have been the subject of, you know, 30 lawsuits for use of excessive force," said Nessel, "And every single one of them has come back that that officer is liable for that. You can't remove a license from that person. You can fire that person from that department. But, you know what, they're just going to go to another department because we need police officers so badly in this state."

She also said she would like to see continued education and paying police appropriately. She's seen in many departments, "it's not a career for people, it's a job." 

RELATED: MI Dept. of Civil Rights requests investigation into GRPD

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights asked the AG's office to work together to investigate complaints against GRPD using discriminatory patterns and practices. The department expects to hear back from the AG's office next week. 

Nessel said Wednesday they have had talks already with the Department of Civil Rights. She wanted to make clear in Michigan, unlike other states, the AG's office does not have the legal authority to do a pattern or practice investigations into police departments, school districts, or other public bodies. They would have to partner with the Department of Civil Rights for any legal authority. 

"Ultimately, I do expect us to move forward," she said.

RELATED VIDEO: Police shooting autopsy shows Patrick Lyoya was shot in the back of the head: Family's attorneys

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