WITH THE END OF the legislative session fast approaching, the House and Senate are trying to hammer out a bill dealing with police reform. In the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, there is tremendous momentum to pass a bill, but significant differences are emerging between the two branches.
The Senate passed its bill last week and the House is scheduled to take up its version on Wednesday. Both measures share common ground. They require fellow officers to intervene in situations of excessive force. They ban chokeholds, the use of tear gas, and most no-knock warrants. The latter became a spotlight issue following the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, a woman who died when Louisville, Kentucky, police executed a no-knock warrant at the wrong address, killing her in her own home.
The two branches also appear to be in general agreement on eliminating the municipal police training committee – a little-known entity within the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security – and replacing it with a new Massachusetts Police Standards and Training Commission with the power to investigate misconduct claims against police officers and decertify those officers found to violate standards. The decisions of the commission would be open to the public and shared with a national database of decertified police officers.
The House and Senate are not totally on the same page with regard to the commission. They differ on who would serve on the commission and the House bill would require that complaints about police misconduct not include a nondisclosure or non-disparagement agreement unless the complainant requests that provision. That would mean that police officers couldn’t ask their accusers to avoid speaking publicly about their conflicts if settlements are reached.
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