With police bill, compromise was the key
Legislature and Baker forced to make a deal
MAJOR POLICE REFORM is all but a done deal on Beacon Hill. The surest sign that the bill has been fully squeezed through the legislative wringer? No one is happy with it.
That, of course, is an exaggeration. Indeed, it’s on its way into the books precisely because enough people were happy enough with it. But the give and take involved in getting Gov. Charlie Baker on board with the Legislature’s bill meant giving up some pieces that the strongest reform advocates wanted. Meanwhile, police unions that were not too keen on changing the status quo to begin with seem resigned to the bill now becoming law.
Baker gained tremendous leverage when the House approved the bill earlier this month 92-67 — less than the two-thirds margin that would be needed to override a gubernatorial veto.
Under terms of the bill, all police officers in the state will have to be certified by a state panel and could be stripped of their ability to work in law enforcement for a range of offenses.
In a floor speech on Monday as the Senate approved the bill with Baker’s amendments, Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, who was part of the House-Senate conference committee that drafted the bill both chambers passed three weeks ago, called it “heartbreaking” to see some elements in that version given up to satisfy the governor.
Boston activist Monica Cannon-Grant told the Globe she was mainly frustrated that that the bill did not do away altogether with “qualified immunity,” which protects officers from civil liability for alleged misconduct. “Every time that there was an update, something else was being watered down,” Cannon-Grant said. “Now you expect us to be happy, with nothing?”
The Globe said some police unions, which had lobbied heavily against the bill, offered “muted acceptance” of the final version.
It was left to Rep. Russell Holmes, who is waging a quixotic bid for House speaker, to offer the most grounded — and succinct — assessment of the politics of the moment.The Mattapan lawmaker, who has long pushed for a system of police certification and was part of early efforts by the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus to see a reform bill pass this year, said it was important to seize on the positive change that was possible under the current political realities on Beacon Hill, even if further reforms are warranted.
“I have to take a win when I see it,” he said.