Issues Blog

Entries, updates on issue organizing and information, legislative action, and other material related to our Progressive Platform and Legislative Agenda

Beacon Hill Just Passed a Final Police Reform Bill. Here's Where You Come In.

Last night, the MA Senate and House passed a consensus version of the police reform bills from the summer. Read our write-up here.

Let's break down how it went and what's next.

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So You Want to Know What's in the Police Reform Bill?

Earlier this evening, the Conference Committee working to harmonize the House and Senate police reform bills passed in the summer released their much-awaited final report: S.2963: An Act relative to justice, equity and accountability in law enforcement in the Commonwealth.

Shortest take: The bill creates a POST Commission with fewer voices for real police accountability than in the Senate bill, establishes a lot of new commissions that may not actually produce anything, creates new regulations on the use of force with various strength (stronger on facial surveillance on chokeholds, pretty loophole-ridden elsewhere), makes notable strides on juvenile justice (from expungement to school policing), bans racial profiling, and lacks meaningful reforms on qualified immunity. (A lot of ups and downs in that sentence.)

GOOD THINGS (SENATE BILL-ONLY) IN THE FINAL BILL:
  • Expanded access to juvenile records expungement
  • Stronger language around protecting students from profiling (with some unfortunate caveats, though)
  • Making school resource officers (SROs) optional for school districts
  • Ban on racial profiling
GOOD THINGS (SENATE BILL-ONLY) *NOT* IN THE BILL:
  • Strong limitations on qualified immunity doctrine (The bill only limits QI in case of decertified officer, as in House bill, and creates a commission on QI.)
  • Requirement of a democratic process around municipal acquisition of military equipment
  • Investment of funds equivalent to savings on incarceration into workforce development and job training/opportunities
  • Strong representation from civil rights groups and impacted communities on the police standards & training commission
GOOD THINGS (HOUSE-ONLY) IN THE BILL
  • Language actually banning chokeholds (unlike the weak Senate language)
  • Stronger language around no-knock warrants (although loopholes still abound)
  • Facial surveillance technology ban (as opposed to just a moratorium) 

Okay, let's dig deeper, section by section.

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The Senate's Budget Improves the House's Language on ROE--But Not Much Else

ast night, the Senate passed its much-belated budget for FY2021. Like the House, the Senate failed to take seriously the need for new revenue, abandons the commitment to fund the commitments made in the Student Opportunity Act, and failed to include emergency paid sick time. COVID-19 is expected to get much worse this winter, and our Legislature just simply isn't taking it seriously.

The Senate did, however, manage to improve upon the House's language on a slimmed-down version of the ROE Act.

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