Reform, Shift, Build

Early in the morning on July 14, the Senate passed S.2820 — the Reform, Shift and Build Act. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the House of Representatives to finalize soon a joint package to lay before the Governor.

You can view a video explanation and discussion of the bill as passed at this link. Section by section analysis appears here.

The outline below offers a thematic organization of the bill. Links in the outline lead to relevant resources. We will build these out over time.

  • Reduce the risk of police misconduct (Reform)
    • Narrow legal authorization for use of force
      • Ban chokeholds
      • Eliminate arrest or escape as occasions for use of deadly force
      • Eliminate evidence preservation as predicate for no-knock
      • Restrict use of crowd control tools to cases where people are threatened
        • encourage prospective de-escalation planning
        • require reporting and review
      • Create commission to review use of force rules in corrections
    • Increase police accountability
      • Statewide police certification authority
        • Receives all misconduct complaints
        • Investigates complaints involving serious misconduct
        • Can decertify police officers
        • Maintains disclosure database
        • Commission to consider parallel process for correctional settings
      • Strengthen civil remedies for misconduct
        • Allow Attorney General to bring pattern and practice cases
        • Prohibit NDAs in police misconduct settlement
      • State police reform
        • Allow Governor to select colonel from outside 
        • Create state police cadet program
        • Strengthen colonel’s hand in applying discipline
      • Body camera taskforce
        • Review all aspects of body camera use
        • Impose moratorium on facial recognition use during taskforce
  • Shift from force and punishment to de-escalation and helping? (Shift)
    • Demilitarize the police
      • Require transparency on military equipment acquisitions
      • Require civilian authorization of military equipment acquisitions
    • Expand mental health interventions
      • Expand the work of the Center for Police Training and Crisis Intervention
      • Develop new evidence-based intervention models
      • Prioritize more community-led mental health interventions
    • Limit the school to prison pipeline
      • Make school resource officers optional at choice of superintendent
      • Prohibit school departments from sharing student information with police except for investigation of a crime or to stop imminent harm
    • Reinvest criminal justice resources in impacted communities
      • Compute savings from incarceration reductions
      • Devote half to community reinvestment fund
      • Also credit half of treble damage awards for police overtime fraud
      • Disburse through diverse committee
  • Fight racism (Build)
    • Reduce burden of policing on people of color
      • Ban racial profiling
      • Require racial data collection for all police stops
      • Require reporting, analysis and reflection
    • Introduce police training requirement on history of slavery, lynching, institutionalized racism
    • Create African-American Commission 

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29 Comments

  1. Amazing work Will.
    It is a vision for the future.
    Thanks for your commitment to these issues.

  2. I didn’t see any mention of expungements. I thought there was something in the bill about these. If so, could you explain it.

    I have a friend who was convicted of joint venture at age 18. This is considered a felony. Is he eligible for having his record expunged?
    He was released from prison over 10 years ago, but is still on parole.

    Thank you.

  3. I think this is a good start. Is there anything in there about how we will measure improvement?

  4. Is any reform re: the vicious crime,shootings,killings of Boston
    Citizens? The Police protect all Citizens..We are all Descendants
    Of Immigrants, we cannot undo what happened 400-500 yrs ago.
    We are All Americans. People who continue to separate by
    Color is wrong, we are all EQUAL! “MAIN PROBLEM”

    1. Angela, I saw a sign tonight that said, if my memory serves: “All Lives Don’t Matter Until Black Lives Matter Equally” . . . and then five minutes later, would you believe it, the WBUR radio station reported about this certain divisive speaker at the White House who had the temerity to suggest that questioning anything about police and the disproportionate use of force against our Black citizens and neighbors was to him a repugnant question, going on to say that more White citizens are killed by police. . . But while that simple math may be true, this speaker (DJT) misleadingly misled everyone by not acknowledging that Blacks suffer lethal police force at a much higher rate PER CAPITA. . . As reported by the Federal gov’t, Blacks suffer “a fatality rate 2.8 times higher among blacks than whites.” And that was only for recent-ish data 2009-12. Whereas historically, unsurprisingly to all: “An examination of data from 1960 to 2010 also indicated consistently higher rates among black men compared with white men, with rate ratios ranging from 2.6 to 10.1” . . . Let’s repeat that last number in the range: ten (10) times more lethal police force for Black men in America than for White men. Check out the data: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6080222/
      No doubt that ten-times Black lethal force was in the 1960s, but that wasn’t that long ago, and no doubt it was something that many of us either witnessed, read about, shared, or otherwise reacted consciously or unconsciously about “the right use of force” or about “who deserves it for doing what.” The fact is, all of us White folks have serious protections while we drive and walk our way through this country, not having a care in the world about our race or fearing being pulled over by a scared or mad or, don’t label it, maybe somewhere tonight, a police officer who can’t help overreacting to their perceived threat of a Black man, even if he’s just walking down the road. Like the tall Black athletic director walking on a street in Newton with his wife, facing four police guns drawn. No way, I’m not feeling that fear as a White man in America today. So, excuse me for raining a bit on your nice homily about all violence being equal – yes violence is dreadful, but that’s not the only point – and about all lives being color blind in value. They aren’t and we as a country have a heck of a lot of work to do to start righting the balance, doing right by our Black brothers and sisters. Maybe then when we start getting this better, maybe then we can revert to the homilies that yes we all would like to believe and live by.

      1. THANK you, Brian. Change will only happen once this ignorance is addressed at every instance, no matter how small.

    2. The police do not protect all citizens equally. When Black people would rather endure or handle whatever the threat is themselves instead of calling the police for fear of not getting home at night because of the Derek Chauvins of the world, who murder with impunity, it’s time to fix the police and police culture.

      1. You and so many others victims of one of the most brazen brainwashing campaigns that this country has ever seen.

  5. Seems very comprehensive. Can all this really happen or does some of it go against union contracts? Can this all be mandated by the State but affect every city and town? Or will it only apply to the State Police?

  6. We are at a rare moment in history when decisive and sweeping action is both necessary and possible. I must say that none of this goes far enough and appears to be calibrated to do just enough to make those clambering for real change go away.

    Real reform would look like this:

    ELIMINATE no knock.

    We don’t need a state wide police certification authority unless it is under civilian control. What we need is a civilian complaint review board with the power to remove bad cops quickly.

    ELIMINATE qualified immunity.

    ELIMINATE school resource officers.

    Reduce the number of arrestable offenses. Require summonses be issued for minor infractions like the one for which George Floyd was accused.

    Demilitarize the Police by PROHIBITING them from acquiring left over military hardware. Don’t hire exmilitary to police jobs without substantial retraining/deprogramming . The skill set is dramatically different. Hire police officers trained in conflict resolution, mental health issues, unconscious bias, community building, race and gender studies.

    Prosecute the State Police under RICO for what the overtime fraud scheme was: Organized criminal activity (committed not by some criminal gang but by our most elite police officers in the Commonwealth). They don’t deserve what they are getting, a truly Massachusetts brand of qualified immunity: Rob us blind, lie, betray the public trust and retire, unprosecuted with your pension. Treble damages? Take their pensions.

  7. This is excellent, but I just would like to make one addition, if I may. As much as I personally have been terrorized by the police (in Minneapolis and Boston), I also want to strongly acknowledge that the police themselves tend to have high rates of mental illness from stress on the job (and, just like the rest of the community, not everyone has a perfect childhood). I really would like to see some funding set aside to just help police say mentally healthy, and to find workplace reform for police (and corrections, if possible). It could be part of that Center you mention in the bill, but this program should focus on psychological resilience training in officers, self-recognition of trauma and burnout in the officers themselves, and the fostering of a climate where officers can feel comfortable taking “mental health time” to stay healthy rather than putting themselves out in the community at a bad time for them. Thank you.

    1. Amen to maintaining and normalizing mental health in our police force. Equally critical is anti-bias, anti-racism awareness ongoing training. These are not one and done “fixes.”

    2. I agree about mental health. It is so undertreated and the mental health of the entire country is, especially just now, very much threatened. Mental health problems not only cause misery but can add to physical health problems.

    3. I think this is a consequence of the amount of roles we put onto police – to be violence worker, counselor, local aid, bureaucrat, and more. These roles should be broken up and distributed. That is what we mean by defund the police. Don’t put all of the work onto police – hire less officers and hire more social workers, aid workers, etc. Why do we require a person with a gun to show up and fill out a report for our insurance companies after a car accident? That could be handled by another, less problematic job.

  8. The ‘Demilitarize the police’ section doesn’t have any addendums that actually demilitarize the police. I also missed the part where you ban using rubber bullets and tear gas on protestors.
    What will happen if someone calls 911 with a mental health crisis? Will the police still be sent? If so, this bill is a failure.

  9. I agree that ending qualified immunity is a good place to start. We need a fundamental reorganization of the state police as well as a deep-diving rethink about the role we want them to play in our society. One example of the problem: how is it, in 2020, that state police officials have not developed protocols to train and equip their own officers to deal effectively with the unsheltered and vulnerable citizens that they encounter every day? The Boston Police do a truly impressive job with that. Why not the state police too? Answering that question may help us get to the heart of the problem.

  10. I see some very good policy changes. I’m in full support of continuous Community oversight. One more issue I would like to bring up is the excessive fines on people the least able to afford them.

  11. I like many of these changes, but I have some concerns about the Community Police Misconduct Committee. We have to make sure that there are no retired or ex- cops on this commitee. We also must make sure that there are no people representing the police unions on this commitee.

    Also another really big point that was not made in the bill: we need state-mandated body cams and dash cams for ALL police in Massachusetts. Body cams are the only reason that we know about so many police brutality cases in the US. Without body cams, how can we know for sure what happened, when someone reports misconduct or misuse of lethal force.

    Right now people are fighting in Brookline to get the Select Board to force police to wear body cams, but they don’t believe that misconduct could possibly exist in their community. Misconduct occurs in all communities. No police force is immune, and the best way to investigate misconduct is to review body can footage.

    WE NEED BODY CAMS ON ALL POLICE OFFICERS IN MA! And they should get in trouble for not having them turned on at all times. How else will you be able to investigate police misconduct, when often these incidents turn into he-said/she-said arguments with no solid evidence?

  12. Any thoughts on how the House bill compares to the Senate bill? In particular the differences in qualified immunity and composition of the commission to certify police?
    “House leaders are proposing to tie qualified immunity for police directly to the licensing process and revoke immunity in any case that results in the decertification of a police officer.”

    “seven-member commission would include appointees from the governor and attorney general, with each getting two selections. The remaining three appointments would be made jointly, but must include the chair of the Massachusetts Law Enforcement Policy Group and at least one other member selected from a list of three choices submitted by the Massachusetts Coalition of Police, the state’s largest police union.”

  13. Well said, Please do not sit back and just comment on police reform, join a police department and change the problems from within There are so many people who know how to fix the problems with their comments but how many will actually join a department or encourage a family member to join. Just talking about issues, you are doing nothing. Even Will and other Senators could apply for Chief jobs. Really make a change! Encourage your state Reps and Senators to follow up on the new law changes and Become Chiefs!

  14. Sen. Brownsberger, Police should not be members of any police behavior oversight groups. They have first sight. They can influence the behavior of their fellow officers while working. This is called self control. They should have it. Police on oversight boards would be tempted to second guess or rationalize bad behavior of fellow officers. They would likely want to protect their fellow officers from any oversight consequences. This would defeat the purpose of oversight groups.

  15. I find John Swomley’s July 15 comments most comprehensively cover issues the bill needs to address, and incorporate his suggestions below, along with comments from others, with my own added suggestions:
    1) eliminate no-knock warrants, qualified immunity, and school “resource” officers;
    2) a civilian certification body that does not include police (current or former) or their union reps;
    3) a civilian review board (again, without police, current or former, or their union reps) with power of subpoena and power to swiftly remove, pending a full review, bad police personnel from duty;
    4) demilitarized police forces (no military equipment –including rubber bullets, chemical spray currently used against peaceful protesters– and no military-trained hires, unless they can prove, like other desirous hires, substantial training in conflict resolution, mental health issues, unconscious bias, community building, race and gender studies);
    5) reduce the number of arrestable offenses; require issuance of summonses for lesser infractions convert many misdemeanors to civil infractions, punishable only with reasonable fines;
    6) incorporate all of the commentators’ comments about ample access to mental health counseling; and, when officer behavior warrants it, or after traumatic incidents, require such counseling; all-staff ongoing training on emotional resilience & in the subject areas itemized in #4 above;
    7) reduce police hires and reallocate those funds to different municipal departments for hiring non-police workers specialized in social work, mental health, domestic violence, traffic control, car accidents (reports), etc.;
    8) body and dashboard cams for all police in Massachusetts, including state, municipal, transit and college/universities, with consequences for failure to use: loss of job, legal presumption in court against the officer(s) when facts are in dispute due to failure to use body/dash cam;
    9) eliminate overtime, side jobs, moonlighting (tired cops make poor decisions, and overtime rates consume budgets);
    10) require all police personnel live in the communities they serve;
    11) eliminate police unions.

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