Legislature enacts police reform legislation

Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020

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Earlier this week, both the House of Representatives and the Senate voted to approve police reform legislation. The bill is the product of monthslong negotiations between members of the House and Senate conference committee, after branches passed their own versions earlier this year.

The bill, titled “an act relative to justice, equity and accountability in law enforcement,” includes measures to establish a civilian-led Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission to create standards for police, investigate misconduct claims, and decertify officers found in violation; require de-escalation techniques in police training and policy; promote a series of non-police crisis response and jail diversion initiatives; and create a new civil service commission. It includes appointments of Massachusetts Bar Association leaders on five separate commissions or committees, including the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, a committee on police training and certification, and a special legislative commission to investigate and study the impact and administration of justice of the qualified immunity doctrine.

In September, the House of Delegates approved a report and resolution from the MBA’s Police Reform Working Group. The report identified three primary areas of police reform: legal accountability; mandated mental health training and support; and standardized statewide training, hiring and retention.

The bill now awaits action by Gov. Charlie D. Baker.