6 lawmakers named to conference committee on police reform

Two are members of Black and Latino Legislative Caucus

TWO MEMBERS of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus will be part of the group that will hammer out differences between the House and Senate versions of police reform legislation.

Springfield Democrat Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, who chairs the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, will be joined by Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz of Jamaica Plain, who is the sole member of the caucus in the Senate. The other four participants are Sen. William Brownsberger of Belmont and Republican Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester, along with Reps. Claire Cronin of Easton, who co-chairs the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Timothy Whelan, a Brewster Republican who voted against the bill. The Senate bill passed  30-7, and the House bill was approved by a margin of 93-66.

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Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

The six-member conference committee negotiators have four days to get the consensus bill to Gov. Charlie Baker, although lawmakers and even the governor hinted on Monday that the session could be extended. At a State House press conference, Baker said he wasn’t telling lawmakers what to do, but he made clear there is a lot of legislation he would like to see passed and very little time to get it all done.

When it comes to police reform, the two branches are in general agreement about eliminating the municipal police training committee – a little-known entity within the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security – and replacing it with a new Massachusetts Police Standards and Training Commission with the power to investigate misconduct claims against police officers and decertify those officers found to violate standards.

The House and Senate are not totally on the same page on who would serve on the commission and whether or not a nondisclosure or non-disparagement agreement should exist between complainants and law enforcement. They also differ on a legal tenet, known as qualified immunity, that shields public employees from civil lawsuits in cases of misconduct.  The Senate bill proposes limiting qualified immunity for all public employees, while the House bill would limit immunity for police officers who are decertified for misconduct.