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A legislative conference committee that was established in July to reconcile differences between House and Senate policing reform bills has released a compromise bill intended to make sweeping changes to how policing is practiced in Massachusetts.
The bill (S. 2963) may be taken up for a vote as early as today and sent to the governor this week. Legislators must cast a yes or no vote on the compromise bill and cannot offer amendments.
According to the legislative summary, the bill would:
• Establish a Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission to administer the certification, training and decertification of police officers and to investigate misconduct
• Prohibit certain policing practices and establish rules governing use of force, use of de-escalation tactics, and other practices
• Create statutory rules for the application of qualified immunity and establish a commission to study the impact of the qualified immunity doctrine in Massachusetts
• Establish a legislative commission to study civil service law, personnel administration rules, hiring procedures and bylaws for municipalities not subject to the civil service law, and state police hiring practices
• Establish a range of other special commissions to continue work on policing reform issues
The MMA and other stakeholders are reviewing the 129-page bill to determine its impact on policing, including new obligations for cities and towns and changes in personnel practices in public safety departments.
The House and Senate chairs of the conference committee released statements last night on the bill.
“This compromise piece of legislation will create, for the first time, an independent agency for the statewide certification of law enforcement officers and establishment of uniform training and standards,” said Rep. Claire Cronin of Easton, House chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. “This legislation is about justice and fairness. Fairness for those that interact with police, and fairness for police as well.”
Sen. Will Brownsberger of Belmont, Senate chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, called the bill “a great package.”
“It’s going to make a real difference in the Commonwealth,” he said. “I think its accountability and transparency provisions are strong enough to really improve policing.”