BOSTON (State House News Service) — Fitchburg Sen. Dean Tran kicked off Senate debate over policing reform on Monday by delivering a scathing indictment of the bill written by Democratic leaders, calling it "ill conceived and politically driven" with no attempt to get at the roots of racism.
Tran, the highest ranking Asian American elected official in Massachusetts, said he had been "struggling" with the bill since it was introduced last Monday, feeling both rushed to review it and unsatisfied with its direction.
"The bill circumvented the legislative process, void of any public hearings and lack the inclusion of dialogue from stakeholders, including communities of color and law enforcement," Tran said.
But he wasn't the only one to express concerns. With Republicans so far allowing debate to proceed Monday after delaying consideration for three consecutive sessions, Taunton Democrat Sen. Marc Pacheco defended the use of parliamentary tactics to delay debate as something that is the right of every Senate member.
Pacheco said he agreed with 80 percent to 90 percent of what was in the bill, but raised concerns that changes to qualified immunity and civil service appeals would circumvent the collective bargaining process. He also said the restrictions that bill would put on qualified immunity would apply to all public officials, not just police, exposing nurses, firefighters and other public officials to expensive and "frivolous" lawsuits.
Tran, who is Vietnamese, said he has experienced "the kind of hatred and discrimination that one can only imagine or experience in their nightmares." He called the bill "ill conceived and politically driven" and asked his mostly white colleagues, "What do you know about racial injustice and inequality?"
"The bill's main goal and objective is to attack and discredit law enforcement," Tran said, describing his first positive experience with police as being with his school resource officer.
The debate paused during Pacheco's speech due to technical issues with senators listening over the phone hearing the senator's remarks. Pacheco resumed his floor remarks at about 1:50 p.m. and wrapped up after 2 p.m. when Senate President Karen Spilka announced the Senate would consider amendments to the bill, before recognizing Sen. Bruce Tarr.
By Matt Murphy, State House News Service
(Photo: Mario Jarjour/WBZ NewsRadio)