Big 3 on board for policing, racism legislation

Baker says he is not in favor of defunding law enforcement

BEACON HILL’S top three leaders are all on record now saying they want to pass legislation addressing policing and racism, but the details of what they intend to do are unclear.

Gov. Charlie Baker has been saying for the past week that he is talking with various stakeholder groups about some sort of legislative proposal fashioned out of a 10-point plan put forward by the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. A key element of Baker’s initiative is a statewide certification process for police officers that would create more consistency in standards and oversight and also prevent officers removed in one community from finding jobs elsewhere. Massachusetts is one of five states without a certification/decertification process,

Baker said he is optimistic the Legislature will move a bill forward. “I am reasonably optimistic that they’ll do something at some point that relates to state and local government, but I don’t believe in slogans as a general rule, and I certainly don’t support the whole concept that we should get out of the business of providing public safety to our communities,” said Baker. “I don’t support defunding the police.”

 

House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka both announced on Wednesday that they also want to put together legislative proposals.

DeLeo and Rep. Carlos González, the chair of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, issued a statement saying they want to create an omnibus legislative proposal addressing policing and inequities in communities of color. The two lawmakers said they hope the bill will reach Baker’s desk by August 1, the day after formal sessions are scheduled to end although lawmakers have hinted the session will most likely be extended.

In the joint statement, Gonzalez and DeLeo said they will immediately proceed on a proposal that could create an independent Office of Police Standards and Professional Conduct to establish minimum statewide policies on policies and procedures – on such things as officer certification and training, the use of force, chokeholds, and mandates requiring officers to intervene in situations where a fellow officer is illegally using force.

Meet the Author

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.

Spilka on Wednesday evening announced the creation of a bipartisan Senate advisory group on racial justice headed by Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, a member of the black and Latino caucus, and Senate President Pro Tempore William Brownsberger. The group is tasked with reviewing existing legislation and recommending policies to address policing and systemic racism, Spilka said.

“I believe we have reached a history-making moment in our Commonwealth and that it should not pass without taking action on policing and racial justice this session,” she said.