Police reform took a big step forward last week when Attorney General Healey and Governor Baker came together to appoint the members of the new Peace Office Standards and Training Commission, created by the law we passed last December.
We have many great police officers and many great police leaders in the state, but we do also have problems. We hope the new POST Commission will bring policing up to a consistently high standard across the state.
The Attorney General and the Governor each appointed three members to the commission, and they appointed three members jointly. They made a joint announcement of their nine appointees on the statutory deadline of April 1.
They have made nine strong appointments and the commission is off to a great start. Margaret Hinkle, a distinguished retired judge, will chair the commission. She brings both strong legal experience and strong administrative experience to the job.
The three police officers appointed all have demonstrated leadership skills and will each bring their own valuable perspective to the job. Larry Calderone is a police union leader; Michael Wynn is a police chief; Larry Ellison is a detective and past president of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers.
The five civilian members also have demonstrated leadership skills and offer deep and relevant experience. Charlene Luma is a social worker leading the unit that supports victims and witnesses in the Suffolk County DA’s office. Hanya Bluestone is a psychologist specializing in trauma care and behavioral medicine. Tina Chery is the mother of a son who was killed in gang violence. She has emerged as a leader seeking peace and reconciliation and better support for homicide victims. Kimberly West is a seasoned prosecutor. Marsha Kazarosian is a seasoned defense and civil rights attorney.
We are in good hands with this very diverse and distinguished group of leaders — they will work effectively together to give the public high confidence in policing in Massachusetts.
The commission will have the authority to certify and decertify police officers. No one will be able to carry a badge and gun in the state without the certification of the commission. All current police officers will start off as certified, but they will need to maintain their training and avoid serious misconduct in order to retain their certification.
The commission will have a good overview of all the police problems in the state. The commission will start by collecting the discipline records of all officers in the state and will maintain a database allowing it to identify patterns of misconduct.
When the commission is up and running, any person will be able to bring a misconduct complaint directly to the commission. And whenever a person brings a complaint to a police department, the department will have to notify the commission. A police administrator who fails to notify the commission of misconduct complaints risks losing his own certification.
The commission will have the power to subpoena witnesses and records. It will have the investigative staff necessary to conduct its own independent investigation of misconduct if it feels that the local department’s investigation is not adequate.
The commission has all the administrative powers it needs to set up its own operations without interference from any other authority. It does depend on funding from the legislature and the governor, but we are fully committed to providing the necessary resources.
I appreciate greatly that the Attorney General and the Governor were able to appoint the commission members on schedule. The commission will legally come into existence on July 1. The new chair of the commission has 90 days to organize and prepare to begin operations. Working with the municipal police training council, the commission then has 60 days to promulgate regulations governing the use of force under our new statutory framework that mandates de-escalation wherever possible.
That is a very tight schedule. I’ll continue to watch with great interest and high hopes.