State, local governments react to protests with first steps in police reform


BOSTON (WPRI) — Massachusetts is one of just a few states that don’t require law enforcement officers to be certified or renew their certification periodically — that could soon change.

Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday that he filed the Act to Improve Police Officer Standards and Accountability, the first of its kind for the Commonwealth. He requested it be debated and passed quickly, as the current two-year legislative session ends on July 31.

“Massachusetts is one of only a very few states that does not have a statewide certification program for law enforcement. And we need one,” Baker said during his press briefing Wednesday. He outlined the three components of the bill.

First, the bill outlines a certification program that requires officers to renew their certification every three years, much like other professions, including teachers, in the Commonwealth. Their certifications and other training information will be entered into a database made public and available to future employers.

Second, the bill creates a process to decertify a police officer, with the community’s input, if he or she is not acting in a proper manner. That includes using excessive force, the governor said. An officer will also automatically lose certification if it’s found he or she did not intervene to prevent illegal acts or excessive use of force by another officer.

Third, the bill creates incentives for more training and education, focusing on deescalation, bias, and human rights. The governor said the Commonwealth is ahead of other states in this training, but needs the certification aspect.

“It will ensure that men and women who cannot live up to the high standards we expect them to uphold do not stay on the force,” Baker said.

“This bill is not about choosing sides and digging in. This bill is about giving the law enforcement community the training and the resources that they need to serve, which in turn, yields high-caliber public servants for our communities,” he added. “It will also enable us all, law enforcement, public officials, and especially the citizens of Massachusetts to separate those out who protect and serve from those who don’t.”

In Rhode Island, the Providence City Council devised a variety of non-binding resolutions with the goal of recommending reforms to the Providence Police Department. Those include looking at giving pension benefits to officers who are disciplined for use of excessive force and dismantling the Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights (LEOBOR).

Another resolution asks the commissioner to review all police training procedures and the use-of-force policy and come up with detailed steps to improve training and competency. Only after that, the resolution suggests, should more police officers be hired onto the force.

Additionally, a resolution urges the Rhode Island General Assembly to make it a law that an officer must intervene if witnessing misconduct by another law enforcement officer. The resolution says this is a matter of “rebuilding trust between officers and the communities they serve.”

The Providence City Council is expected to present those non-binding resolutions at their meeting Thursday night. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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