Gov. Baker signs police reform legislation into law, creating new oversight for officers

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Thursday that he had signed police reform legislation into law. The measure, “An Act Relative to Justice, Equity and Accountability in Law Enforcement in the Commonwealth,” took a circuitous root to become law.A version was initially proposed in June by Baker, who urged lawmakers to put it on the fast track in the wake of nationwide protests over racial justice following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Various other proposals led to the two houses of the legislature passing different versions, which took months to reconcile. Then, Baker returned it to the legislature with requested changes. The House and Senate voted to send a final version with some of those changes to his desk earlier this month. The measure bans chokeholds, using tear gas on large demonstrations and most no-knock warrants where a child or person over age 65 is home. It also creates a civilian-led oversight board that will certify officers and can handle misconduct complaints. After objections by Gov. Baker, that board will not oversee officer training.Baker also asked that facial recognition not be banned completely, a change lawmakers ultimately agreed to make.“This bill is the product of bipartisan cooperation and thanks to the Black and Latino Caucus’ leadership on the hugely important issue of law enforcement accountability, Massachusetts will have one of the best laws in the nation,” said Baker said in a statement. “Police officers have enormously difficult jobs and we are grateful they put their lives on the line every time they go to work. Thanks to final negotiations on this bill, police officers will have a system they can trust and our communities will be safer for it.”“We are extremely confident that this comprehensive legislation signed into law by the Governor today will serve to renew an elevated sense of faith, confidence, and trust that the residents of the Commonwealth will have in their law enforcement agencies across the state,” said Chief Edward A. Dunne, President of the Massachusetts Chief of Police Association.The Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission created by the law will be made up of nine members, including six from outside law enforcement. POST will be responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct and maintaining databases of records, including training and discipline. “This bill was a necessary first step towards achieving systemic change through law enforcement accountability and transparency, but I recognize that we must continue to address barriers to racial equity in a comprehensive way. I am proud of everyone who marched for equity and justice, who continued to raise their voices throughout the process of getting this bill finalized, and who will hold us accountable as we continue this work,” Senate President Karen E. Spilka said.“I am proud that the House lived up to its vow of listening to folks with lived experience in enacting one of the most comprehensive approaches to police reform in the United States since the tragic murder of George Floyd,” said former House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, who resigned earlier this week.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Thursday that he had signed police reform legislation into law.

The measure, “An Act Relative to Justice, Equity and Accountability in Law Enforcement in the Commonwealth,” took a circuitous root to become law.

A version was initially proposed in June by Baker, who urged lawmakers to put it on the fast track in the wake of nationwide protests over racial justice following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Various other proposals led to the two houses of the legislature passing different versions, which took months to reconcile. Then, Baker returned it to the legislature with requested changes. The House and Senate voted to send a final version with some of those changes to his desk earlier this month.

The measure bans chokeholds, using tear gas on large demonstrations and most no-knock warrants where a child or person over age 65 is home.

It also creates a civilian-led oversight board that will certify officers and can handle misconduct complaints. After objections by Gov. Baker, that board will not oversee officer training.

Baker also asked that facial recognition not be banned completely, a change lawmakers ultimately agreed to make.

“This bill is the product of bipartisan cooperation and thanks to the Black and Latino Caucus’ leadership on the hugely important issue of law enforcement accountability, Massachusetts will have one of the best laws in the nation,” said Baker said in a statement. “Police officers have enormously difficult jobs and we are grateful they put their lives on the line every time they go to work. Thanks to final negotiations on this bill, police officers will have a system they can trust and our communities will be safer for it.”

“We are extremely confident that this comprehensive legislation signed into law by the Governor today will serve to renew an elevated sense of faith, confidence, and trust that the residents of the Commonwealth will have in their law enforcement agencies across the state,” said Chief Edward A. Dunne, President of the Massachusetts Chief of Police Association.

The Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission created by the law will be made up of nine members, including six from outside law enforcement. POST will be responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct and maintaining databases of records, including training and discipline.

“This bill was a necessary first step towards achieving systemic change through law enforcement accountability and transparency, but I recognize that we must continue to address barriers to racial equity in a comprehensive way. I am proud of everyone who marched for equity and justice, who continued to raise their voices throughout the process of getting this bill finalized, and who will hold us accountable as we continue this work,” Senate President Karen E. Spilka said.

“I am proud that the House lived up to its vow of listening to folks with lived experience in enacting one of the most comprehensive approaches to police reform in the United States since the tragic murder of George Floyd,” said former House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, who resigned earlier this week.

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