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Governor Baker expected to sign revised police reform bill



Michael P. Norton

The policing reform bill that grabbed Beacon Hill’s attention midway through 2020 is back on Gov. Baker’s desk, awaiting his expected signature.

The House voted 107-51 and the Senate took a voice vote to re-enact the bill, which has drawn strong opposition from police but maintained the momentum that grew over the summer out of outrage over police violence toward Blacks Americans.

Baker had returned the bill to the Legislature, which incorporated some of the changes the governor sought via amendment.

The bill (S 2963) is designed to ensure accountability in policing by requiring officers to be certified and regulated by an independent, civilian-led commission. Among many other things, it bans the use of chokeholds, establishes limits on the use of rubber bullets and tear gas, creates a duty to intervene to prevent officer misconduct, and calls for a task force on body cameras, and commissions to address structural racism in parole, probation and correctional systems.

The Massachusetts Coalition of Police in a statement said they had preserved qualified immunity for most police officers and ensured that police training will continue to be overseen by qualified public safety personnel. “However, a lack of proper examination and study into a number of crucial portions of this bill will result in collateral damage that will have a negative impact on many of our communities,” MassCOP wrote. They said that “as Governor Baker prepares to sign this bill into law, changing the police profession in Massachusetts forever,” MassCOP will focus on ensuring that all police are afforded due process rights and that law enforcement has a voice on the new police commission.

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