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Hi there!

Today we're looking at the MA police reform bill that is expected to become law.

What’s Happening? 

Last week, the Massachusetts legislature accepted Governor Baker’s amendments to the police reform bill. Governor Baker is expected to sign the bill into law. 

Why is this important?

This bill was driven by the protests following George Floyd’s murder. If signed, it will be the most comprehensive police reform in Massachusetts history. 

What’s in the bill?

A couple weeks back we covered Gov. Baker's changes. These changes have been accepted by the legislature, so we wanted to summarize the final bill. (The full 129 page bill can be found here.)

The "Good"

It’s far from everything activists want, but the bill does include some good items.

  • The creation of POST (Police Officer Standards and Training), a civilian led committee to hold police officers accountable. POST will have full investigative and subpoena powers, as well as the ability to revoke police certifications. All MA police officers must be POST-certified every three years. 
  • Massachusetts will join the National Decertification Index, an inter-state database of decertified police officers. This will prevent MA from hiring officers who have been decertified in other states, and vice-versa. 
  • Officers now have an explicit “duty to intervene” if a fellow officer employs "unreasonable force".
  • Chokeholds are banned, and cops can’t shoot fleeing cars.
  • Schools can no longer share student information unless the info pertains to a specific case. This limits the scope of the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) which has supported the "school to deportation" pipeline (WBUR). 

POST and Police Certifications constitute significant accountability for MA police officers, and lay the foundation for additional reform in the future. 

The "Bad"

This bill omitted these much-needed changes. 

  • The bill doesn't ban facial recognition technology, which has been proven to be racist. 
  • The bill doesn't end qualified immunity, an issue at the center of the nationwide police debate. 
  • The bill no longer includes civilian oversight of police training. Instead, training will be overseen by a committee of five MA police chiefs.
  • The bill doesn't remove tear gas, rubber bullets, and dogs from police arsenals. 

Final thoughts and how you can help

This bill was never going to solve all policing issues in MA. While it falls far short of what we need, it does provide a few meaningful changes. POST, and the required certification of police officers, is a huge win. Civilians can now hold police accountable for their actions, a change that cannot be overstated. 

While this state bill doesn’t remove teargas and rubber bullets from MA police arsenals, there’s a pending Boston city ordinance that would restrict these weapons in the city. 

Contact Mayor Marty Walsh to urge him to sign the “Ordinance Restricting the Use of Chemical Crowd Control Agents and Kinetic Impact Projectiles.” 


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A Better Boston team


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