Massachusetts Senate passes police accountability bill

Massachusetts

BOSTON (AP/WPRI) — The Massachusetts Senate has passed a police reform bill to limit the “qualified immunity” that now shields officers from civil prosecution, puts checks on the use of chokeholds and tear gas, and requires law enforcement officers to be licensed.

Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka tweeted at 5 a.m. Tuesday that the final vote was 30-7.

The measure has come under criticism from police unions and their supporters who argue that officers should not have to worry about potential lawsuits while on patrol and a Republican lawmaker who felt it was being rushed.

“The Massachusetts Police Association is deeply disappointed and disturbed by the Senate version of police reform,” Executive Director James Machado said in a statement Tuesday. “We cannot support a measure which takes handcuffs off drug dealers and gang bangers and puts them on police, allows criminal records to disappear while tearing open police personnel files and allows criminals to appeal for monetary damages while denying police due process to appeal for their job.”

It now moves to the House.

In Rhode Island, Representative Anastasia Williams proposed a bill last month to update the law enforcement officer’s bill of rights.

“The reprimand is not properly enforced to a degree and the other thing that I’m disheartened about is that it takes so long for law enforcement chiefs and or individuals of authority to reprimand an individual,” Williams said.

The R.I. Senate also currently has a bill to create a legislative task force to review and provide recommendations on policies regarding the bill of rights. Last month, R.I. police departments signed a Twenty for 2020 pledge to implement new policy changes aimed at addressing systemic racism.

“This is something that should have happened a long time ago,” Williams said. “Some individuals of power talk about you know there’s no corruption going on in the police department like it used to be. Maybe not exactly like it used to be, but it’s still going on, period.”

Williams emphasized her law enforcement officer’s accountability act is all about open dialogue. She says she expects a hearing for the bill by the end of the year.

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