BOSTON (CBS) — Gov. Charlie Baker proposed new legislation on police reform Wednesday. His administration filed a bill that would create the first statewide certification program for law enforcement in Massachusetts.
The governor collaborated with the House Black & Latino Legislative Caucus as well as public safety officials on the legislation.READ MORE: MBTA Making Service Cuts Due To Bus Driver Shortage
“We began working with the caucus on this effort almost a year ago, largely because Massachusetts is one of only a very few states that does not have a statewide certification program for law enforcement, and we need one,” Baker said at a news conference. “The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police officers made clear that now is the time to get this done.”
There have been large protests across the nation and Massachusetts, calling for reform in the wake of Floyd’s death. Baker’s bill would allow for police officers to be decertified in case of misconduct.
“We are here today because the protests have been heard and now it’s time to answer the prayers,“ Black & Latino Legislative Caucus Rep. Carlos Gonzalez said. “Today is the beginning of some candid and uncomfortable conversation.”
The bill details actions that would result in “mandatory decertification,” including using a chokehold and not intervening when a colleague is using excessive force. Baker said it’s “critically important” that the bill reaches his desk by July 31, when the legislative session ends.
.@MassGovernor praises Police Officers but says the bill is about the ability to separate “those who protect and serve and those who don’t”. It creates:
1) Certification Program
2) Process for de-certification
3) Incentives for training on de-escalation & other techniques #wbz
— Paula Ebben (@PaulaEbben) June 17, 2020
“This bill creates a more modern, more transparent and more accountable system for law enforcement training that will ensure the men and women who cannot live up to the high standards we expect them to uphold, do not stay on the force,” Baker said. “This bill is not about choosing sides and digging in. This bill is about giving the law enforcement community the training and the resources that they need to serve, which in turn yields high caliber public servants for our communities.”
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said Floyd’s murder was “an act of racism” and injustice will not be tolerated in Massachusetts.
“Our bill will ensure officers have access to additional tools like advanced training for foreign language proficiency, advanced sexual assault and domestic violence response techniques, and deescalation techniques. It will also help hold accountable and decertify the bad actors have tarnished the reputation of our dedicated and honorable police officers,” Polito said. “Most importantly, this legislation will do more to address the racial inequities that still exist across our country today.”READ MORE: More Than 50% Of People With Chronic Health Conditions Neglect Their Flu Shot
Rep. Holmes: Days Of Not Getting A Police Badge Number Are Over
Rep. Russell Holmes said it’s time to evaluate police officers the same way many other jobs in the state are measured.
“I envision a day where I get pulled over – because that will happen – I will sit in that car, like so many folks do, and we wait around for 15 minutes for them to come give us our ticket,” Holmes said. “They’re reviewing our background, our driving record. I will view theirs too.”
The ACLU of Massachusetts called Baker’s bill “a welcome first step” but said “more can—and should—be done to dramatically change the role police play in our communities.”
“We’re one of only five states in the country that doesn’t require police certification while there are more than 50 professions that do. Whether you’re talking about a nail salon, or a barber, or a teacher,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts.
She said the bill is a good start, but more reform is needed. She said the legislature could ban police tactics like chokehold and end qualified immunity.MORE NEWS: Concerns About Flu Surge On Top Of COVID Surge Have Doctors Braced For Busy Season
“It’s really a court-ordered law that says that police officers are not really liable if they violate your rights, and it doesn’t make any sense.”