(Photo: Getty Images)
BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — On Wednesday, Gov. Charlie Baker detailed new bipartisan legislation that would bring sweeping reform to Massachusetts law enforcement.
Gov. Baker said the bill, An Act to Improve Police Officer Standards and Accountability and to Improve Training, has long been in development in conjunction with the state's Black and Latino Caucus and state public safety officials.
"We began working with the cause on this effort almost a year ago," said Baker. "Largely because Massachusetts is one of only a very few states that does not have a statewide certification program for law enforcement, and we need one. The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police officers made clear that now is the time to get this done."
Gov. Baker said the legislation would primarily do three things:
Require Law Enforcement Certification And Record Transparency
Massachusetts is currently one of four states without a police certification process. For the first time in state history, the bill would require Massachusetts law enforcement officers to be certified for the job. That certification would have to be renewed every three years.
Baker said the law enforcement certification would be "consistent with how state certifications work for other professions like medicine, education, and social work."
In order to ensure all police officers are certified, the bill would create the Police Officer Standards and Accreditation (POSA) Committee, which "would be comprised of law enforcement and civilian representatives, at least half of whom would be required to be persons of color."
The POSA Committee would be responsible for certifying all law enforcement officials in Massachusetts, including those from non-municipal departments serving transit agencies, colleges, and other entities.
The bill would also require the POSA Committee to create a database of certified officers, and ensure that "training and misconduct records are available to officers’ current and future employers," inside and outside Massachusetts.
Members of the public will also be able to access certain information, like an officer's certification status.
In addition, the bill would develop a standardized background check for those seeking employment with a new police department. That background check would include a check of the POSA database and the National Decertification Index.
“A comprehensive POSA system will enhance accountability and apply consistent standards statewide,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Security Thomas A. Turco. “It will improve public safety and public trust for the men and women who serve, protect, and inspire our cities and towns.”
Ensure Community Involvement For Decertifying An Officer
The bill would also allow for decertification, suspension of certification, or reprimand in the event of certain misconduct. Baker said law enforcement certifications would be taken away from individuals who "do not live up to their training or their oath."
If a law enforcement officer were to use "excessive force" like a chokehold, or if they failed to intervene when seeing a colleague use excessive force, Baker said they would be automatically decertified.
Offer Incentives For Advanced Police Training
Gov. Baker said the bill will also incentivize officers to seek further training and education, which would focus on de-escalation tactics, community building, human rights, and bias training.
"Here in Massachusetts we have a strong forward looking approach to training and education," Baker said. "Thanks in part to leaders like... countless chiefs across Massachusetts, we in many ways are ahead of other states with respect to training and education. The big gap is; we lack a certification program to instill day to day accountability and transparency in the system we have."
Gov. Baker said he hopes the legislation will have all changes implemented and that it will be signed into law before the end of the legislative session on July 13st.
Rep. Carlos Gonzales, Chairman of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus said they were "here today because the protests have been heard."
"Today is the beginning of some candid and uncomfortable conversation," said Gonzales. "As Martin Luther King would say, 'We have some difficult days ahead.' We want to get this through this session and onto the governor's desk and signed."
(Photo: Getty Images)