Progress on police reform

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.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

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28 Comments

  1. Will, This is wonderful news. I know you shy from taking credit so I will be proud for you. In the fall perhaps you will come north and tell us how it gets done. Kindest best wishes, John Merrifield

  2. Will this have oversight over the problems with the State Police as well?

  3. Wow – I am very impressed with the thoughtful and diverse make up of this Commission – THANK YOU for all the work that has gone into this Will, a truly important move to help shift the foundational needs to build a peace-keeping (versus crime-seeking) police force.

  4. Thank you for the update, Will. I am relieved to see progress on seating the commission.

  5. Thanks, Will. This is good news! Will the Commission have the authority to oversee the Mass. State Police and other law enforcement entities that are not municipalities? What law enforcement organizations, if any, are outside their jurisdiction? Thanks.

  6. Thank you, Senator
    Brownsberger –
    I appreciate that you keep us so
    well-apprised of these important
    developments.

  7. I am originally from Minneapolis, and I think this is excellent. The problem with Minneapolis’s so-called Civilian Review Board was that it had no authority to do anything. Its strengths were that it was big and comprised of community members (e.g., people who had to deal with the police on a regular basis in the community). This board looks very different – lacking community members – but has authority, so I’m willing to give it a shot. The main issue I see is with the “database”. I think the database is a great idea, but the databases set up by the Commonwealth of MA are horrible. I cannot think of one that works right. This will be a difficult database to design in order to make it useful, because it will probably be the first of its kind. I really hope that you can do something to prevent yet another “botched database” paid for by taxpayers.

  8. This is wonderful news. Will, I greatly appreciate receiving the email updates from your office.

  9. Incredible. I can’t wait to continue to watch the progress being made. So many thanks

  10. What are the statewide standards police are expected to adhere to? Who sets those? What code is this commission enforcing?

    1. Regarding some of the Committee’s new standards, what is acceptable deadly force “proportionate” to imminent harm? If a determined person is using a baseball bat to inflict as much harm as possible, not ruling out death, on those around him, is a police officer justified in using his firearm? Or does he need to grab a baseball bat as well?
      Wouldn’t it have been better to simply override police union powers that protect bad officers than to create a new set of rules that potentially puts both good officers and the public at risk? What happens when a bunch of officers resign/retire at the same time because of such changes as these like in Portland and many other cities throughout the country? Will we be safer then?
      I understand the good intentions of this reform and agree that change is necessary; I just wonder if the potential (negative) unintended consequences have been thoroughly considered. It doesn’t seem so to me.

  11. Another step in the right direction. In deciding their next steps, I hope the commission members realize that changing the culture of policing can only be done by addressing the culture directly – e.g., understanding the existing culture, what is right and what is wrong about it, understanding how it evolved and what sustains it, identifying the roadblocks to change, and then developing an action program to make the needed changes. If they just hope some policy and enforcement actions will cause the needed change, it won’t happen.

  12. Thank you for announcing and sizing up the new commission. It is a credit to you and all who pulled this off.

    Will more extensive biographies of the commissioners be available soon?

  13. Dear Will,
    Thank you for all your good work and your timely, thoughtful update on the POST Commission appointments.
    Best, Elodia

  14. Will the public be able to view decisions made by the commission? Are the appointments to the commission life long? Is there any possibility for the public to be able to elect members of the commission in the future? Thank you for all your work Senator.

  15. Thank you so much for this excellent summary, Sen. Brownsberger! Police reform is one of my main concerns. Over time, while we weren’t looking, some police officers became drunk with power and militarized, while others said nothing and let them do it. I am particularly incensed by the Mass. State Police overtime FRAUD scandal (which went on for years!) and by the racism I’ve seen in some police behavior. I think this legislation will help swing the balance toward police officers consistently following the law and protecting and SERVING residents. I sincerely thank you for your diligent effort to pass this legislation and tell us about it.

  16. Once again, thank you Senator for your update. I am very happy to see this news, and thank you for all your work that has led up to this achievement!
    Could I ask, please, when would there be an update from the Commission to the public?
    Thank you, and hope all well in your Tuesday!

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