While Beacon Hill legislators haven’t moved yet to address Gov. Charlie Baker’s amendments to policing reform legislation, other efforts to improve law enforcement accountability are moving forward locally and in the courts this week.
Earlier this week, the First Circuit Court of Appeals said people can’t be prosecuted under the state’s 1968 wiretapping statute for secretly recording police in a ruling that upheld part of a lower court order that countermanded a statewide ban on such recordings.
The court heard arguments back in January about whether private citizens can audio and video record police in public spaces.
In 2018, federal judge Patti Saris ruled private citizens do have that right, but Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins’s office appealed that ruling, saying the definition of what a public space is wasn’t narrow enough.
Project Veritas, a group that focuses on free speech, argued that such recordings are protected by the First Amendment and people shouldn’t be arrested for making them. But Rollins, joined by Attorney General Maura Healey’s office said the state’s 1968 wiretapping law protects citizens from being recorded without their knowledge.
The appeals court upheld Saris’s ruling. Criminal defense attorney Keren Goldenberg writes that as a result of the court’s decision, open cases for secret recordings of police must be dismissed, and people previously convicted for the offense can seek to vacate those convictions.
In Boston on Wednesday, the City Council approved a new independent office that will investigate and provide oversight of the local police department through a civilian review board.
The creation of the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency, or OPAT, was passed 12-1 (Dorchester councilor Frank Baker was the sole no vote), and will be tasked with reviewing civilian complaints of the Boston Police Department.
The ordinance was a compromise measure that merges a proposal of civilian oversight of police put forward by councilors Ricardo Arroyo, Andrea Campbell, and Julia Mejia and measures proposed by Mayor Marty Walsh and his police reform task force.The office will also review Boston Police Department internal affairs cases.
The council let go of its attempt to mandate that police commissioner William Gross be bound by the findings of the civilian review board after pushback by Councilor Michael Flaherty.
The office will also have a three-member commission, each member appointed by the mayor, that will be given subpoena authority in OPAT’s investigations and will host public meetings about issues that arise.
Walsh must sign the ordinance for it to go into effect, but the council passed the measure by a veto-proof majority so it’s likely going to happen..
Meanwhile, the public waits to see how the Legislature moves on Baker’s amendments. The governor agreed with parts of policing reform legislation, but sent back an amendment that put law enforcement personnel within his administration and not a civilian-dominated commission in charge of developing police training programs.
Other amendments also eliminated a ban on police use of facial recognition software, and struck out language focused on requiring the Department of Correction to pursue prisoner releases to home confinement and medical parole during the pandemic, along with widespread surveillance testing.
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson says he has put Attorney General Maura Healey’s report on a May 1 violent incident with immigration detainees “halfway down the sewer pipe.”
House rejects Gov. Charlie Baker’s abortion amendment, as Baker hedges whether he will actually veto the Legislature’s abortion provision.
The Senate advances a campus sexual assault bill.
Members of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board clarify their controversial votes on fares, service levels, and service restoration.
Opinion: Parental or judicial consent doesn’t work for everyone, says Jael Humphrey, who traveled from Massachusetts to Connecticut to obtain an abortion….Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group and an Iraq war veteran, warns from experience that the pandemic will leave PTSD in its wake.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
NBC10 Boston reports that House Speaker Robert DeLeo is stepping down to take a position at Northeastern University. DeLeo’s office shoots down the NBC10 report about Northeastern but refuses to say whether the speaker is staying or going. (State House News_)
In an op-ed, 17 members of the Boston Celtics call out Gov. Charlie Baker for objecting to a provision in the pending police reform bill that would limit the use of facial recognition technology, arguing that the technology “supercharges racial profiling by police.” (Boston Globe)
Secretary of State William Galvin accuses the online investment site Robinhood of violating state securities laws. (Boston Globe)
A change in vendors used by the US Department of Agriculture to supply food to local hunger relief organizations has severely cut back on deliveries to the state, according to members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation. (GBH)
A North Adams smart-zoning proposal to create dense housing and commercial development downtown draws no initial opposition. (Berkshire Eagle) Boston’s Copley Square could get a major makeover. (Boston Globe)
After Chicopee City Councilor Lucjan Galecki made comments on social media placing the blame on victims in some cases of sexual assault, city officials say if he doesn’t resign, they have no authority to remove him from office. (MassLive)
Front line health care workers begin receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and many express hope that it marks the beginning of the end of the pandemic. Media talked to nurse Michele Hnath at Salem Hospital (The Salem News), a number of Clinton Hospital medical staff (Telegram & Gazette) and staff at Mercy Medical Center. (MassLive). Experts say it remains critical for people to keep taking safety measures. (The Salem News)
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will be offered to pregnant women, despite a lack of testing on its safety during pregnancy. (MassLive) Testing continues regarding its safety for children. (The Associated Press)
USA Today writes about the role of German scientist Özlem Türeci, cofounder of the German company BioNTech, which partnered with Pfizer to develop the first US-authorized COVID-19 vaccine.
Trustees of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home debate whether to renovate or replace the outdated building. (MassLive) The trustees chose National Guard Col. Michael Lazo as the next acting superintendent of the home, despite state officials’ preference for a different candidate. (MassLive)
A Boston police officer shares the story of his near-death battle with COVID-19. (Boston Herald)
Congressional leaders are close to a deal on a $900 billion economic stimulus package. (Washington Post)
The Washington Post reports that two “outsiders” — the former dean of Howard University’s school of education and the Connecticut state education commissioner — have emerged as top contenders for the education secretary post in the Biden administration.
French president Emmanuel Macron has COVID-19. (New York Times)
The Daily Hampshire Gazette digs up a court decision from June that upholds BayState Medical Center’s requirement that an employee wear a mask if she isn’t going to get an influenza shot. The woman was fired for not wearing the mask.
Consumers who have become increasingly accustomed to instant purchasing gratification have had to adapt to a supply chain with lots of delays resulting from the pandemic. (Boston Globe)
MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, announced Tuesday that she has given away $4.1 billion over the last four months, with a number of Massachusetts nonprofits on the receiving end. (Boston Globe)
With widespread remote learning already in place, many districts are no longer giving snow days, but are requiring students to participate in remote learning. (Telegram & Gazette) Some Cape Cod schools opt for a snow day. (Cape Cod Times)
GBH pays tribute to a group of people who died from COVID-19, with the help of students from Berklee College of Music who dedicate original musical compositions to each person profiled.
The pandemic is causing a huge drop in transportation emissions. (Maine Public Radio)
The Salem Skipper, a new ride-sharing service run by the New York-based company Via, will take passengers anywhere in Salem for $2. (The Salem News)
Boston-based Motional, a company that has developed driverless-car technology, has struck a deal with Lyft to begin deploying driverless “robotaxis” in US cities in 2023. (Boston Globe)
The recently constructed natural gas compressor in Weymouth won’t go back online until federal regulators receive a full report on September’s emergency shutdowns at the plant. (Patriot Ledger)
Serge Georges Jr. is sworn in as the newest justice on the Supreme Judicial Court. (MassLive)
Kali Hollingsworth, of Taunton, is being held without bail after his arraignment in Taunton District Court Wednesday for the murder of 30-year-old Jean Carlos Quinones-Lopez. (Taunton Daily Gazette)
The Advocate, the Times-Picayune, and the Acadiana Advocate form the Louisiana Investigative Journalism Fund.