House of Representatives passes bill to reform policing in Massachusetts
On Friday, July 24, I joined my colleagues in the House of Representatives in passing a bill to improve policing in Massachusetts by establishing a certification process, creating an independent and empowered oversight board, and codifying restrictions on use of force measures,, among other measures.
Following the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests, the Legislature pledged to listen to demands for change and to work toward addressing the existing systemic inequities that lead to racial bias. An Act relative to justice, equity and accountability in law enforcement in the Commonwealth (H.4886) seeks to improve governance of police and addresses a number of key items aimed at making our system more equitable, including the elimination of the chokehold and the addition of an officer’s duty to intervene in cases where a colleague improperly uses excessive force.
The bill establishes the Massachusetts Police Standards and Training Commission (MPSTC), a seven-person board charged with the responsibility to certify, restrict, and, following due process, revoke and suspend certification for police officers The bill removes qualified immunity for those individuals whom have been decertified by the MPSTC and limits the use of facial recognition technology. Additionally, it forms the Division of Training and Certification, comprised of 6 police chiefs, the Colonel of the State Police, the Boston Police Commissioner, 2 sheriffs, one police officer appointed by the governor, and one person selected by the Secretary of Public Safety and Security, to devise appropriate training and certification standards for police. The bill creates a number of commissions to investigate structural racism in correctional facilities, the parole process and probation services as well as a commission on the status of African Americans in Massachusetts.
I am proud that the House crafted a bill after conducting extensive discussions with members and stakeholders, including the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus and law enforcement organizations, and allowed for public testimony. This landmark legislation marks an important step toward achieving racial justice in Massachusetts, in addition to beginning the process of ensuring that all Commonwealth residents and the police officers who serve them benefit from standardized training, increased transparency, and strengthened accountability.
H4886 is now in conference committee, and I continue to welcome constituent feedback.
Included below are brief statements on H4486 from House Speaker DeLeo and House Chair of the Judiciary Committee Claire Cronin, in addition to a bullet point summary of the bill’s major provisions.
“Change is never easy, but with this bill the House of Representatives acts to ensure fairness and equality,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “This bill is the product of countless hours of conversation with a wide swath of stakeholders, including the members of the MBLLC and law enforcement groups. It takes significant action to make our law enforcement system work better. I am deeply grateful to the work of Chairs Cronin and Michlewitz, Representative González, the chair of the MBLLC, and Vice Chair Michael Day.”
“For the first time, an independent agency will reframe standards, training, oversight and accountability for law enforcement in our Commonwealth,” said Representative Claire Cronin, House Co-Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary (D-Easton). “These changes are necessary to rebuild trust in our community and ensure the highest level of integrity within our departments.”
The major provisions in the bill include the following:
Establishes restrictions on the use of force, including:
Allowing physical and deadly force only in the event of certain conditions;
Limiting the discharge of a firearm into a fleeing vehicle;
Restricts the use of tear gas, rubber pellets and dogs;
Sets Massachusetts on a path for reform and investigation of:
The Civil Service System
Structural racism in:
Law enforcement body camera taskforce
Creates a permanent commission on the status of African Americans
To ensure African Americans equitably benefit from and have access to government services in the same manner as other citizens of the commonwealth
Promote solutions that address the impact of discrimination against African Americans
Assess programs and practices in all state agencies as they affect African Americans using a racial equity framework
Permanent commission on the social status of Black men and boys to study, review and report on the social status of black men and boys in the Commonwealth
Serve as a liaison between government and private interest groups concerned with issues affecting black men and boys
Creates a permanent commission on the status of Latinos
To ensure Latinos equitably benefit from and have access to government services in the same manner as other citizens of the commonwealth
To promote solutions that address the impact of discrimination against Latinos
assess programs and practices in all state agencies as they affect Latinos using a racial equity framework
Statewide law enforcement officer cadet program
Corrections officer training and certification
Throughout the legislative process, we recognized that qualified immunity reform is a complex topic that effects many sectors, and one that could benefit from additional study. Therefore, the House bill creates two separate and parallel tracks: removes qualified immunity for those police officers who are decertified by the commission after due process and continues to study qualified immunity more broadly.
Forbids public agencies other than the Registry of Motor Vehicles from using facial recognition technology;
Permits law enforcement members to access facial recognition only after obtaining a warrant or making a written determination that an emergency with and imminent risk of death or serious injury exists.
Creates a Process around the Use and Training of School Resource Officers and limits on student record sharing by schools;
Prohibits officers from having sexual intercourse with a person in custody and creates strong penalties for such conduct
Makes it a crime for an officer to submit a false timesheet
Requires that a no-knock warrant be issued by a judge (previously left to a clerk magistrate) and only if the affidavit supporting the request establishes probable cause that if the officer announces their presence their life or the lives of others will be endangered and only if no minor child or person over 65 is present
An officer may only enter a residence without a no-knock warrant if there is a credible risk of imminent harm.