Policing Reform

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  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.

    1. I agree. Reform or don’t but don’t call it reform unless it really changes that which needs to be changed. Police reform can be viewed as helping the police, rather than “defunding.” Any organization with the history of lethal force against unarmed citizens needs adjustment. The expectations placed on officers are too high. They need and deserve help from other segments of society…Boys and Girls clubs in every town and city, after school programs for sports, math, science, drama, etc. activities to build up the recipients. Apprentice programs to prepare for real world jobs. Education in civics..how does the government work? What is against the law and why? Many factors need to be considered and funded and put into practice. It is past time to reevaluate and put into place a police team with intelligence and empathy and the strength that comes from understanding, not fear.

  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.”

      1. There is no need for this training

        It is a farce the people who need education are these racist advocates.

        If anyone needs anti-bias training it is the Boston City Council, Ayanna Preslsey and the self assigned public advocates.

    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.

  16. Looks like your going to have a lot of chiefs and no indians. I think all of the police are going to leave because it is too dangerous to work under these conditions. Good luck with this.

    1. no police no peace. citizens need to be protected but a good question to ask (which I don’t hear a lot of dialogue on) is as follows: is there a more dangerous job, for less pay, than policing? locally. police need our support. I’m not at all confident that’s the signal we’re sending here with this bill, and the heroic efforts (time, energy, etc.) that have already gone into it by our electeds. What is the bill reacting to? An incident that didn’t even happen anywhere near Boston. Right? There has been so much “buzz” around issues of “social justice.” MLK said injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. So why are we not so concerned here in Massachusetts with the ongoing issue of kids in Boston not having access to in person education? It’s the financially disadvantaged that are suffering the most. And it’s the financially disadvantaged communities that will suffer the most if police don’t feel supported. I see an overall lack of common sense and a lot of emotional (and ignorant) people in my community reacting to national incidents (which haven’t all even been litigated yet) push our electeds to take actions that are potentially harmful towards people that don’t need to be punished (i.e. most police and particularly financially disadvantaged communities)

  17. I’d like to see stats on the negative and racial issues brought against BPD and Mass State police before I make a judgement as to whether or not a police officer is able to rightfully protect him or herself. It is my understanding, that many of these practices of restraint are already in place.

  18. I see that the package calls for having a database on all of the officers. Can you please tell me how will it be used , and if there is language to ensure that it will be used?

  19. meanwhile, kids in the City of Boston, in my district, which Will represents, still don’t have the option to attend school. Even though Robert Redfield, head of the CDC, restated recently that it was never the recommendation to close schools. But I digress. That’s not the poliktical “hot topic” conversation on the table. And as I sit here this a.m., I still can’t help but wonder why. Though at the same time, I know my Senator is not “in charge” of the school topic here in Boston. Having said that, I can’t help but notice his absence on weighing in on this very important issue. And that is not meant as a criticism on Will, who I think is a great guy. He works for us after all. He’s just working on what the loudest voices are asking him to work on. Right?

  20. I’ve known our Senator for a long time and we have disagreed on occasion, but one thing I’m sure of is that when he takes a stand it’s because he has thought out his position and he has decided that it is correct. It’s not that he’s listening to the loudest voices and following what’s popular. That’s what makes him so good.

  21. I applaud Senator Brownsberger and the legislature for moving this bill forward. It is a necessary step to reign in abuses and restore policing to its original purpose, serve and protect. As a strong union advocate, it’s clear to me that an obsessive focus on details and protection of mediocrity and malfeasance has undermined the credibility of police unions. They are incapable of self-regulation. The mechanisms in this bill will move policing in the right direction and save us money as taxpayers. Cities, towns and the state are paying out settlements and legal representation costs that should be redirected. Don’t defund, refund policing with a commitment to support communities.

  22. Will,
    What about automatic speeding tickets? We know they are effective and improve safety. Many of these disparate incidents are related to police car stops, why hasn’t the use of technology in this area been put forward – it seems appropriate given COVID concerns, misuse of car stops, cost of police labor hours, biases in car stops… Isn’t it time for use of technology for these violations?

  23. The police need our support not the derision that many of the so called activists have shown.
    The problem is the legislature not listening to the public, who does not agree with a loud vocal minority whose views reflect the violent protesters in Seattle and Portland.

    This is time to support the police and repudiate their critics who promote a hate filled agenda.

  24. Will:

    Thank you for all your work on this.
    It is a good first step. As others have said, it does not go far enough, but it is a beginning.

  25. Watching the crushing of the police officer and see the photo of Officer Sicnick on the ground, dead, at US Capitol insurrection shows exactly why we need police reform. Racial profiling kills everyone, not just those profiled. Spending the time to surveille persons of color, makes one miss the very real threat of domestic terrorists attempting a coup. Blue lives only matter when they are not pointing a gun at a white person. Then they are every name in the book.

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