BOSTON (WPRI) — After months of protests locally and around the country, a police reform bill is one signature away from becoming law in Massachusetts.
Some have criticized the bill for going too far, while others say it doesn’t go far enough. But either way, the measure is on its way to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk after being approved by the state House and Senate.
Supporters say the bill would increase police accountability by creating better oversight systems, including commissions focused on officers’ training and how policing and other policies impact people of color.
Dr. LaSella Hall, the president of the NAACP’s New Bedford chapter, says these committees must be a representation the people impacted the most by those policies.
“When you’re going to have these commissions, when you’re going to put this task forces together — let the community know,” Hall said. “We live in different Americas, where some people get stopped by police and get to go home, and other people don’t.”
The bill not only implements new police training and certification guidelines, but also requires that officers be re-certified every three years. In addition, officers can lose their certification for violations such as excessive force.
Prior to its approval, the Massachusetts Police Association urged lawmakers to strike down the bill, saying it “creates layers of unnecessary bureaucracy and costly commissions staffed by political appointees with no real world experience in policing and the dangers officers face every day.”
Conversely, the local NAACP says the bill lacks important measures.
“It needed to be comprehensive in order to have true police accountability,” Hall said. “We need to build on all these things, and that just didn’t happen.”
Hall believes legislation must start at the federal level. He pointed to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor as examples of why police reform must focus on communities of color and not protect any possible bad actors within the police departments.
In a statement to 12 News, New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro said the bill shouldn’t be enacted before all of its potential impacts are explored and law enforcement executives are consulted.
“We are still in the very early stages in terms of understanding what this bill means for everyone —Officers and the public,” he wrote. “We should not be rushing it and make every effort to get it right.”
“I am a strong advocate for a sharp increase in training funds to ensure our Officers are provided with the resources and skills required to keep the public safe in drastically changing environments,” Cordeiro continued. “As law enforcement leaders our primary mission is to ensure the safety of our police officers, residents, and our communities.”
Cordeiro also said he and his department are committed to community policing, noting the “immeasurable challenges” his officers have faced over the past year.
“Through it all, they have continued to show up bravely in the face of danger every day saving lives and making a powerful difference.” he said. “I am confident this valor will continue in 2021.”