Charlie Baker signs ‘landmark’ police reform bill on New Year’s Eve, capping year defined by protests

A  “landmark” police reform bill has become law, earning Gov. Charlie Baker’s signature on New Year’s Eve and closing out a year defined by racial tensions and calls for police accountability as protests broke out in cities across the nation.
Baker called the legislation “one of the best laws in the nation” after signing the “bipartisan” bill on Thursday, following seven months of debate on Beacon Hill.
The hard-fought legislation represents a compromise between activists who rose up this year in defiance of police brutality following the high-profile police killings of Black people like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and the police unions who pushed back on proposed changes.
“Thanks to final negotiations on this bill, police officers will have a system they can trust and our communities will be safer for it,” Baker said, acknowledging the “enormously difficult” job of law enforcement.
Core to the legislation is the creation of the first-ever licensing system to certify and decertify police officers in Massachusetts. Similar systems already exist in all but four states, but the Bay State’s nine-member, civilian-led Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission charged with overseeing certification, establishing policing standards and investigating allegations of misconduct, is the only one with a civilian majority.
The law also bans chokeholds, limits no-knock warrants, creates a duty-to-intervene and de-escalate for police officers, bans racial profiling and ends the requirement for stationing police officers in schools. It also peels back qualified immunity protections, removing it for any officers that are decertified.
But Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, who helped draft the compromise legislation, said “no one bill will dismantle structural racism” and called Thursday’s action a “mile-marker, not an end.”
Police unions across the state pushed back throughout the debate process in opposition to nearly all of the bill. The state’s largest union, Massachusetts Coalition of Police, went as far as saying it could “endanger” officers.
The Democrat-led Legislature made concessions on training standards — which will remain under the purview of police — and in allowing the use of facial recognition technology with a warrant to guarantee Baker’s signature. The Republican governor threatened to veto the bill if it didn’t scale-back certain prohibitions.
Eddy Chrispin, president of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers said, “The landmark legislation passed by the Legislature and the governor begins to address the historic negative interactions between people of color and the police. It is our hope that this legislation is the first step in addressing systemic racism in this country.

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