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Massachusetts House Passes Police Reform Bill

Harrington: ‘Bill Goes Too Far; Would Compromise Safety of Public by Deterring Qualified Candidates From Entering Law Enforcement’
by Robert Stewart
Groton’s State Representative Sheila Harrington voted against a Police Reform Bill that was approved by the House of Representatives last week by a vote of 93-66.
     In casting her vote opposing the reform bill, Harrington said in a press release that the bill went too far and would implement restrictions on police policies that would make it difficult for police officers to do their jobs and do little to improve the safety of the public. Harrington also said there were components of the bill she could support but indicated that the provisions placing restrictions on some policing practices could prove dangerous to police officers.
     The key components of the House Bill propose that all police officers become certified by an outside accrediting agency, a decertification process for misconduct by police officers, a ban on chokeholds, placing restrictions on “No-Knock” warrants, requiring officers to intervene if they witness excess force, regulate the use of tear gas and rubber bullets, ban facial recognition technology, revoke what is called “Qualified Immunity” for officers who become decertified and bars school officials from sharing student information to outside law enforcement agencies.
     Harrington said the components of the bill she supports include certification of all police officers, a ban on chokeholds and the requirement to have police officers intervene if they witness police misconduct. She noted that these provisions address many of the core policing reforms endorsed by the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus.
     The components of the bill that Harrington opposed include restrictions on “No-Knock” warrants, the provision to bar school officials from sharing student information with law enforcement agencies and most importantly limiting “Qualified Immunity” for police officers. Currently, qualified immunity protects police officers from civil suits even when there are questions of misconduct. The House bill would disallow qualified immunity when officers become decertified.
     According to Harrington, the Senate version of a police reform bill is more restrictive than the House version. With both chambers (House and Senate) passing police reform bills, a committee will be formed to work out differences in the bills with the goal of finalizing a bill to be sent to the Governor’s Office before the Legislature adjourns for summer recess.
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