CORONAVIRUS / COVID-19 UPDATE #25
Friday, July 17, 2020
Just after 4:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning, after roughly 17 hours of debate, the Senate passed the Reform, Shift + Build Act. This omnibus bill, produced by a bipartisan Racial Justice Working Group appointed by the Senate President, will increase police accountability, shift law enforcement away from surveillance and punishment and instead toward de-escalation and community strengthening, and build a more just and equitable Commonwealth. The bill reflects what many have shared that they want in this moment of change and presents a strong first step toward dismantling systemic racism in Massachusetts.
The Reform, Shift + Build Act makes a number of important reforms, including explicitly banning racial profiling in policing, reducing the militarization of local law enforcement agencies, and requiring law enforcement officers to intervene if another is using unnecessary force. One of the most central components of the bill is the creation of the Police Officer Standards and Accreditation Commission (POSAC), which will certify and de-certify officers and maintain a publicly searchable database of complaints against officers to ensure that officers fired for misconduct cannot be hired by another agency in our state. Additionally, the bill would restore to its original purpose the doctrine of qualified immunity, allowing civil lawsuits against law enforcement officers who commit egregious misconduct and civil rights violations. I delivered a detailed speech on qualified immunity during the debate on the Senate floor.
I proposed five amendments to the already strong base bill, and three were adopted. (The other two were outside the scope of the bill.) My adopted amendments help to avoid the use of tear gas and improve transparency by ensuring that police officer misconduct becomes part of the public record. While there is plenty more work to do, together, the Reform, Shift + Build Act is a significant first step toward responding to the needs of Black and brown communities and other communities that are overpoliced and overrepresented in our criminal justice system.
I know racial equity and police accountability are important issues to so many of my constituents. I received hundreds of emails in support of these ideals, and I saw many people in person at physically distanced Black Lives Matter demonstrations throughout our district, as we joined people around the globe to call for justice for Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and all victims of anti-Black violence. I received several contacts in opposition as well, but the contacts calling for racial justice and policing reform outnumbered the opposition messages by more than double.
If you or any of your loved ones in my district have fallen on hard times during this public health crisis and need assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office. My team and I are hard at work connecting constituents with resources they need, whether it is collecting unemployment benefits, accessing food stamps, reaching state agencies, and more. My office line is 617-722-1555 and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to help.
Wishing you and your families strength, health, and resilience.
Yours in service,
Senator Becca Rausch
The newsletter was shortened for publication here. To view the full set of contents, follow this link: https://mailchi.mp/fc07fb8832e2/covid19-update-12609752?e=0c2c9810fe
|Senator Rausch: COVID-19 Update #25 (and policing reform)|