BOSTON (WHDH) - Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday announced that his administration has filed a new police reform bill that will create a “more modern, transparent and accountable” system for law enforcement in Massachusetts, require officers to be certified for the first time, and ban the use of chokeholds and other forms of brutality.
The bipartisan bill, “An Act to Improve Police Officer Standards and Accountability and to Improve Training,” will create a framework for certifying Massachusetts law enforcement officers, provide accountability, ensure that police department in and outside of Massachusetts have access to candidates’ training and disciplinary records, and provide incentives for officers to pursue advanced training to better serve their communities, Baker explained during a news conference at the State House.
“This bill will create a more modern, transparent, and accountable system for law enforcement credentialing and training. It will provide police departments with the tools they need to build trust and strong relationships with every community across the Commonwealth at a time when we need it most,” Baker said. “We are grateful for the Black and Latino Caucus’ and Public Safety officials’ collaboration on this bill, and I look forward to working with the legislature to get it passed.”
If the bill is passed, it would for the first time require police officers in Massachusetts to be certified, in addition to allowing for decertification, suspension of certification, or reprimand in the event of certain misconduct.
The proposed bill comes in the wake of the officer-involved death of George Floyd and the nationwide protests that continue to call for more transparency and accountability.
Floyd, a black man, died in late May after a Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on the back of his kneck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest on Memorial Day. Floyd had been suspected of using a counterfeit $20 bill.
“We began working with the caucus on this effort almost a year ago, largely because Massachusetts is one of the only a few states that does not have a statewide certification program for law enforcement,” Baker said. “We need one. The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police officers made it clear that now is the time to get this done.”
Baker said the bill would require officers to renew their certification every three years, automatically call for the decertification of an officer who fails to intervene if they witness a colleague using excessive force, and ban chokeholds and other forms of brutality.
“If you get decertified, you’re done,” Baker said emphatically.
Baker said the bill would also create the Police Officer Standards and Accreditation Committee, which would be comprised of law enforcement and civilian representatives, at least half of whom would be required to be persons of color.
“Massachusetts is one of four states without a police certification process,” Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said. “But the high standards of training we require for our police departments give us a strong foundation on which to build one. This bill will allow police departments to make better-informed recruitment and hiring choices while improving accountability for all the communities we serve.”
The POSA committee would be charged with the responsibility of certifying all law enforcement officials in Massachusetts, including those from non-municipal departments serving transit agencies, colleges, and other entities. The bill would also require the committee to create a database of certified officers, ensure that training and misconduct records are available to officers’ current and future employers, and develop a standardized background check for those seeking employment with a new police department.
Officers who pursue advanced training in foreign languages, advanced domestic violence, and sexual assault response, advanced de-escalation techniques, and other high-level proficiencies would also be rewarded if the bill is passed.
Members of the caucus and Baker also voiced the need to make police departments, including the Massachusetts State Police, more diverse.
Baker said he hopes the bill gets passed before July.
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