Senate 30-7, approved and sent to the House a bill making major changes in the state’s policing system. The measure creates a Police Officer Standards and Accreditation Committee (POSAC)—an independent state entity composed of law enforcement professionals, community members and racial justice advocates—to standardize the certification, training and decertification of police officers.

Other provisions ban chokeholds that are performed with the intent of or with the result of causing unconsciousness or death; ban other deadly uses of force except in cases of imminent harm; require the use of de-escalation tactics when feasible; create a duty to intervene for officers who witness abuse of force; limit qualified immunity defense for officers whose conduct violates the law; expand and strengthen police training in de-escalation, racism and intervention tactics; and ban racial profiling, require racial data collection for all police stops and require reporting and analysis.

“We have lots of wonderful police officers, and I am grateful for their service,” said Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont). “But we cannot turn a blind eye to the problems that do exist in the state which have been so recently documented by the United States Department of Justice. Nor should we pretend that those problems are the only problems in the state. This legislation is long overdue and I’m glad we are moving forward.”

“I voted no because the bill that was brought before the Senate was hastily written and then pushed through to a vote in less than a week,” said Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton). “These actions result in a flawed product with multiple unintended consequences. For example, the language in this bill significantly dilutes and diminishes qualified immunity, not just for law enforcement officers, but for all municipal employees. Additionally, the bill would make it illegal for police and school administrations to communicate about gang and drug-related activity occurring in the school district, in turn making our schools and students less safe.”

“This bill is a vital step towards a new vision of public safety: one that’s built on accountability, de-escalation, and care,” said Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston). “It begins the long, necessary work of shifting power and resources to black communities and communities of color who have, for too long, faced criminalization and punishment instead of investment.”

“In my opinion, we don’t know enough about how changing these standards of qualified immunity and collective bargaining will affect law enforcement, municipal employees, court systems, and labor unions in our state,” said Sen. John Velis (D-Westfield). “I believe we need subject-matter experts to help inform us and make recommendations, in order to be absolutely certain that we are meeting the goals of our legislation without any unintended consequences. That being said, I also believe that there is a lot of good work accomplished in this legislation, and I fully intend and hope to vote for a conference committee bill that accomplishes our goals and will be signed by the governor.”

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