House police reform debate moves at glacial pace

The House on Wednesday moved at a glacial pace through the 217 proposed amendments to a police reform bill. By day’s end, according to the State House News Service, six amendments had been adopted, six rejected, and 34 withdrawn without a vote, leaving 171 for Thursday.

The House bill would place limits on use of force, like chokeholds; set up commissions to study racism and diversity in civil service positions; and, like the Senate version, establish a licensing and decertification system for police. (For the key sticking points, click here.)

The House bill is not as broad as the one passed by the Senate last week, but law enforcement officials still don’t like it. Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association President Jeff Farnsworth said the bill is “nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to the events happening hundreds of miles away from here” — a reference to the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.

Rep. Claire Cronin of Easton, the House chair of the Judiciary Committee, defended the need for the bill. “There’s a fraction — a small fraction — of the bad apples who are the bad actors, but 99.9 percent is not good enough,” she said in introducing the bill. “We can’t allow the bad apples to cause the fine men and women of law enforcement to be smeared in the eyes of their community by the actions of a few.”

One of the amendments that passed placed additional restrictions on “no-knock warrants,” which allow law enforcement to enter dwellings without notifying the residents. Filed by Boston Rep. Liz Miranda and approved by an 83-76 vote, the amendment would allow use of no-knock warrants only if law enforcement has no reason to believe that minor children or adults over the age of 65 are inside.

Miranda recalled the deaths of Breonna Taylor and Aiyana Stanley-Jones, both of whom were killed after police entered their households. Taylor, a former EMT in Louisville, Kentucky, was shot eight times when police executed a no-knock warrant, killing her in her own home. Seven-year-old Stanley-Jones died in Detroit when she was shot in the head by an officer who entered her family’s home under a no-knock warrant to detain her father, who was suspected of a murder.

“It could have happened in Massachusetts,” Miranda said, adding that her amendment “is to save women like me, like Breonna, and girls like Aiyana.” She added: “No child should be woken up by SWAT teams marching into their homes in the middle of the night.”

She also mentioned the death of Eurie Stamps, an elderly grandfather in Framingham, who was killed during a SWAT raid on his home in 2011. The Framingham SWAT team was looking for his nephew, who was suspected of selling drugs.

Brewster Republican Timothy Whelan, a former State Police trooper, said he would “likely be dead” if it weren’t for a no-knock warrant that allowed him the time to wrestle a gun out of a suspect’s hand. He said he worried about placing more restrictions on police who are going into what are often life-or-death situations.

Miranda wasn’t the only one reading off the names of those who have died. Rep. Colleen Garry of Dracut read off the names of 15 Massachusetts police officers who have been killed in the line of duty. All four of her amendments to the bill were defeated on voice votes.

SARAH BETANCOURT


FROM COMMONWEALTH

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FROM AROUND THE WEB

BEACON HILL

House lawmakers start whittling down more than 200 amendments to the police reform bill. (MassLive) The Globe editorial board continues to hammer away at what it calls the broader change imperative, imploring lawmakers not to get sidetracked and to pass meaningful reform by next Friday’s deadline.

Landlords are hoping a federal court will throw out the state eviction ban that Gov. Charlie Baker extended earlier this week. (Boston Herald)

Joe Battenfeld says partisan politics has “permeated” the office of Attorney General Maura Healey who picks her battles based on party politics. (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Framingham City Council bans the approval of any new multi-family dwelling units for the next nine months to understand better what’s in the pipeline now and how those units will affect city services. (MetroWest Daily News)

Robert Moulton Jr., a North Adams city councilor and school committee member, went on a community television show and called Black Lives Matter a terrorist organization and said the impact of COVID-19 was miniscule. (Berkshire Eagle)

Framingham is seeing fewer and fewer COVID-19 cases among older people and more for those ranging in age from 20 to 50. (MetroWest Daily News)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Labs around the country are unable to keep up with the demand for coronavirus tests, creating long processing delays that let the virus spread as people await test results. (Associated Press)

Massachusetts Department of Public Health data shows a recent increase of COVID-19 cases on Cape Cod. (Cape Cod Times)

New data compiled by the Associated Press indicate Massachusetts got shortchanged on federal supplies of personal protection equipment when COVID-19 cases were surging in May. (WBUR)

Baystate Health, which scrapped a plan to build a new behavioral health hospital in Holyoke and close three treatment facilities across western Massachusetts, is now pursuing that strategy again with a new partner. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump sends more federal agents to Chicago and other cities, painting a dark portrait of an out-of-control crime wave that his “law and order” campaign message is designed to leverage. (New York Times)

The Republican-controlled Senate is poised to stand its ground and pass a military spending bill that orders the Pentagon to rename bases honoring Confederate generals, despite President Trump’s threat to veto such a change. (Washington Post)

ELECTIONS

Rayla Campbell, a black Republican woman waging a write-in campaign to land a spot on the November ballot against Democratic US Rep. Ayanna Pressley, said she’s still waiting for an apology from the congresswoman after a Pressley supporter, Monica Cannon-Grant, a prominent Boston black activist, went on a race-based tirade against her in a video that’s gone viral. (Boston Herald)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Businesses that are often mainstays of local commercial districts have been slammed particularly hard by the coronavirus-related hit to the economy, according to a new survey by the MassINC Polling Group. (Boston Globe)

Restaurant workers are facing a host of new challenges, whether they lost their jobs or are returning to work with new safety protocols. (Telegram & Gazette)

The Greater Boston housing market continues to hum, with more buyers now looking toward the suburbs. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

Amherst’s town manager sent a sharply worded letter to the UMass Amherst chancellor, warning that the decision to welcome students back to campus, even though most classes will be online, will endanger “the health, and perhaps, the lives” of area residents. (Daily Hampshire Gazette) As college students return to Amherst, residents are already calling the police to report students holding parties without masks or social distancing. (MassLive)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren criticized Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration for its demand that schools reopen for full-time, in-person instruction or risk losing federal funding. (WGBH)

School bus operations will be greatly complicated by COVID, according to guidelines released yesterday by the state education department. (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

An outside investigator hired by Methuen officials explains why he exonerated a police officer who pointed his gun at a man during a traffic stop who had his hands in the air and was obeying orders to sit still. (Eagle-Tribune)

Retired Brockton police officer Eric S. Smith is accused of having images of child pornography on his laptop and a thumb drive. (The Enterprise) 

A case before the Supreme Judicial Court centers on whether police need a warrant from a judge to obtain information from the MBTA on a suspect’s movements drawn from a CharlieCard he was using. (Boston Globe)

The Worcester police are investigating after a video shows an officer appearing to slap a man on a gurney. (Telegram & Gazette)

PASSINGS

Brian Wright O’Connor pens a thoughtful and comprehensive obituary of John Lewis for the Bay State Banner.