Police Reform Bill is First Step of Many to Address Police Violence
Statement from Executive Director Marc Draisen
Thursday, December 3, 2020
Earlier this week, the Massachusetts House and Senate passed a significant bill to address issues of police violence against persons of color. The bill includes meaningful reforms in a wide variety of areas, including certification and decertification of police officers, limitations on the use of certain police tactics, and new procedures regarding issues such as School Resource Officers (police in schools) and expungement of records. (See MAPC's summary of highlights.)
MAPC urges Governor Baker to sign this bill, and to begin the long and important process of restoring confidence in law enforcement across all sectors of our society. Now is the time for all participants in this contentious debate to come together and implement the important reforms contained in this landmark legislation.
At the same time, it is important to recognize that the reforms in this bill are only a first step. MAPC will continue to work with local officials, the Commonwealth, law enforcement agencies, and community-based organizations to ensure that additional reforms are swiftly implemented and funded. Two particular concerns are the ability of localities to disengage from Civil Service without approval from the Massachusetts Legislature, and reforms to the onerous arbitration system, which limits the ability of local officials to hold law enforcement staff accountable.
We must also recognize that, in order to be effective, the reforms passed today must be adequately staffed and funded over the long term, and constantly monitored for effectiveness. Certification systems can work to hold public servants accountable; but they have also been known to hide bad behavior and protect the employees and agencies they regulate. Strong staff, adequate funding, and public oversight are essential to make sure the reforms succeed.
Furthermore, while effective state oversight is vital to change policing for the better, we also know that improvement in law enforcement practices will often come through the endeavors of local leaders and residents. MAPC stands ready to aid its cities and towns as they consider innovative approaches to protect the safety and well-being of all people in our region.
Last month, MAPC presented its Excellence in Collaborative Leadership Award to the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus for its work on police reform. We recognize the new bill as a testament to their years of work on these issues. It is also a testament to the work of everyone who marched in communities and throughout the region, and who encouraged their legislators to address the issue of police violence. We pledge to work with the Caucus and other state and local leaders to monitor the new systems established in this bill, to do everything we can to make them a success, and to fight for additional reforms that are still needed.
Marc D. Draisen