Time for standardized police training in Massachusetts?

It has long been known that Massachusetts is lacking in its standardization of police training – but there was little urgency on Beacon Hill to do anything about it. Now, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the resulting national outcry over police brutality may be the impetus needed to finally reform the process.

Nowhere is the problem laid out more clearly than in a November 2019 report by state auditor Suzanne Bump.

The problem is not standards. Massachusetts actually has some of the strictest standards in the nation for police training, requiring all police officers to undergo 40 hours of in-service police training annually.

However, it is left up to each municipal police department to enforce the training requirement, and no one at a state level tracks whether police officers actually undergo the training.

Of 138 municipal departments that responded to Bump’s survey, 13 said they did not provide officers with 40 hours of training and four did not provide any training.

The state has a Municipal Police Training Committee, but as The Republican/MassLive.com reported in a 2019 story on Bump’s report, the agency is inadequate to fulfill police training needs. There are few courses available, not enough instructors, and the facilities lack even a firearms range or vehicle track. Some larger departments conduct in-house training, while smaller departments cobble together training regimens through neighboring police departments, outside consultants, or online courses. Departments also need the money to pay officers – and the officers who cover their shifts – to attend trainings.

One proposal to address this inconsistency is a POST system, or Police Officer Standards and Training. POST is a method used in 45 states where a central system sets standards for police training, tracks each officer’s training, and can decertify officers for misconduct.

Bills to move Massachusetts to a POST system have been languishing on Beacon Hill for years.

The Boston Globe broke the news Wednesday that Gov. Charlie Baker is preparing to introduce a bill that would create a POST system to certify – and decertify – officers, based off a working group he created last year.

Also Wednesday evening, House Speaker Robert DeLeo announced that he was outlining legislation, along with the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, to create an independent Office of Police Standards and Professional Conduct, which would write statewide policies and procedures for law enforcement and provide statewide oversight and accountability, including officer certification and enhanced training.

Attorney General Maura Healey has come out in favor of POST.

The Senate’s position is unknown, although Senate President Karen Spilka announced Wednesday that she was creating a Senate advisory group on racial justice, led by Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and President Pro Tempore Will Brownsberger. Chang-Diaz is part of the Black and Latino caucus, which released a 10-point plan to address police misconduct, which includes support for POST.

Bump’s survey found 84 percent of police chiefs support moving to a POST system.

One question is if police departments must improve their training, who will pay? Bump’s report found that, in 2018, the Municipal Police Training Committee spent between $1 million and $1.5 million on in-service training, while municipalities paid at least $22.8 million. Massachusetts did approve a new fee on car rentals in 2018 to fund municipal police training. But neither the state nor municipalities are swimming in money right now.

It remains to be seen if calls for “defunding” the police could shift to “reallocating” police money to make sure all officers are properly trained.

SHIRA SCHOENBERG


BEACON HILL

A union official releases her phone and email records, which show Marylou Sudders, the governor’s secretary of health and human services, was alerted to problems at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home 24 hours before Gov. Charlie Baker said he and Sudders learned of them. (WBUR)

A Globe editorial urges the Legislature to extend the tenure of the MBTA Fiscal Management and Control Board, which is scheduled to sunset at the end of June.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Mayor Marty Walsh says addressing racism involves more than simply cutting the police budget. (Boston Globe)

Joe Battenfeld suggests the multiple crises he’s facing could lead Walsh to abandon any plans to run for a third term next year. (Boston Herald) Yesterday’s Download said Walsh’s reelection prospects, which looked solid a month ago, seem much less certain with all the racial justice issues raised by the police killing of George Floyd.

On top of everything else, complaints to police about illegal fireworks being discharged in Boston are up 2,300 percent. (Universal Hub) City Councilor Julia Mejia is convening an online forum to try to address the problem. (Boston Globe)

The owner of a Worcester auto repair shop wrote a social media post threatening protesters, and now they’re protesting outside his shop. (Telegram & Gazette)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Coronavirus cases are rising in 20 states. (NPR) The pandemic doesn’t seem to be ending. (Washington Post) Sweden’s no-lockdown approach to COVID-19 is coming under fire as cases and deaths rise. (Politico) Brockton Hospital nurses say they’re concerned over lack of PPE and protocols to ensure safety during reopening (The Enterprise)

A coronavirus vaccine that researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center helped develop will begin human testing in July, two months ahead of previous plans. (Boston Globe)

Four hospitals get $2.5 million from state health officials to address social determinants of health — things like food insecurity — in communities. (MassLive)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Congressional leaders are at odds over whether to extend emergency unemployment benefits beyond their scheduled expiration at the end of July. (New York Times)

Contravening generals and his own defense secretary, President Trump said he would not even consider renaming military bases that are named after Confederate military leaders. (Washington Post) Through polls show broad support for addressing the policing issues raised by the killing of George Floyd, Trump has signaled no interest in reform and seems “laser focused on his mostly white and conservative base,” the Globe reports.

AFL-CIO top dogs and other union leadership nationwide are calling for police reform even as police unions face growing criticism. (NPR)

NASCAR said it is banning the display of Confederate flags at all its events. (Washington Post)

ELECTIONS

Joan Vennochi finds good evidence of Sen. Ed Markey’s “presence” in his Malden driveway. His primary challenger, Rep. Joe Kennedy, has charged him with being absent from the state. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Malls reopen, with hand sanitizer and tape marking 6-foot spaces on the floor. (The Salem News)

Millennium Partners says the development firm needs to downsize plans for a huge tower in Boston’s Winthrop Square. (Boston Globe)

ARTS/CULTURE

A letter signed by more than 50 current and former fellows, interns and artists was sent to the leadership of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, saying they have failed to address years of racism. (Cape Cod Times)

Plimoth Plantation will reopen to the public today, with restrictions. (Patriot Ledger)

Work on a memorial honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, will begin within weeks on Boston Common. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

American Airlines and JetBlue get federal approval to suspend operations out of Worcester’s airport. (Worcester Business Journal)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Amid a national decline in recreational boating deaths, Massachusetts saw a steep decline in fatal boating accidents in 2019. (Gloucester Daily Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A man convicted of a 2000 murder in Lawrence is granted parole amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Eagle-Tribune)

MEDIA

The Taunton Gazette apologizes for a reporter’s biased coverage of a George Floyd protest on Taunton Green.

Two co-owners of The Missourian newspaper resign in protest over a “racist” syndicated editorial cartoon published by their father, the publisher. (KMOX4)