MA House Gets Vapors At Idea Of Actually Decertifying Officers, Banning Tear Gas

Here is this morning’s update on the current status of police “reform” in the House. For the topics the House has not yet considered, it’s not too late to call your House Rep and make your opinion known. All texts of amendments may be found at https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H4860/Amendments/House.

Key successes so far:
– #116, which we supported, passed narrowly. It placed further restrictions on no-knock warrants to protect children and elders. Yes, this means that almost half of our 80% Democratic House, thinks that on suspicion that illegal drugs exist in a home, the police should not have to check whether there are kids and elderly people inside before a SWAT team busts in, throws flash-bang grenades, and opens fire.
– #148, which we supported, passed. It strengthened penalties for police rape of people in custody, so at least there’s a consensus that that is wrong, I guess. Looking forward to seeing how many indictments are actually brought!

Key failures so far:
– #51, #54, #79, #107, #110, #129, #132 and #177, all of which we opposed, were some of the amendments which were folded into “Consolidated Amendment A” (https://malegislature.gov/Bills/GetAmendmentContent/191/H4860/A/House/Preview).* Consolidated Amendment A weakens the procedures of the Commission relative to the underlying House Amendment H4860 (the House bill). The Consolidated Amendment generally limits the ability of the Commission to investigate complaints until the police department has ruled on them, narrows the grounds for decertification, extends the appeal process for decertification, and gives the Commission greater discretion to not decertify. This basically means that the most important lesson Bob DeLeo is taking from the fury on the streets, is that it’s very important that any new Commission not be obliged to decertify officers who are shown to practice racist policing, to use excessive force, or to fail to intervene when they see other officers doing it.

– #77, which we supported, failed, as part of the process leading to the approval of Consolidated Amendment A. It was an effort to restore a “preponderance of the evidence” standard for decertification; the standard in the bill remains at “clear and convincing evidence.” There are further efforts, apparently, to increase the standard to “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
– #111, which we opposed, passed. It narrowed information not allowed for schools to share with law enforcement.
– #187, which we opposed, passed. It replaced the state auditor as a member of the new Police Commission with the president of the DAs’ association, as part of “Consolidated Amendment B”, which covered who should and should not be a member of various Commissions set up by the bill (https://malegislature.gov/Bills/GetAmendmentContent/191/H4860/B/House/Preview).
– #200, which we supported, failed. It would have banned tear gas and other chemical weapons. Apparently, it’s just a step too far to ban substances whose use in war is prohibited by the Geneva Conventions, from being used against people protesting police brutality.

Key amendments we support that have not yet been considered:
– #80: Establishes that database of police misconduct records should be publicly available and searchable
– #85: Public notice for Commission meetings, not simply by request
– #100: (also supported by ACLU and Progressive Mass): Creates direct right to sue for police abuse, not just via the AG’s office
– #131: (also supported by ACLU and Progressive Mass): Restores Senate language on local control of military equipment acquisition
– #201: Appears to bar 287(g) agreements of police or sheriffs’ departments with ICE in their current form

Key amendments we oppose that have not yet been considered:
– #33 would make the chokehold ban more limited, as would #114
– #91 is a mischievous and silly amendment that would strip legislators’ qualified immunity from civil suit as revenge for stripping police officers of theirs.
– #149, also opposed by ACLU, would remove warrant/imminent harm requirement for law enforcement access to RMV records
– #172, #173, #193, #197 and #204 would all replace the bill’s repellently weak reform of qualified immunity with an even weaker study committee to consider the issue.
– #215, among other things, would limit decertification for bias to intentional bias.

* It appears that if an amendment is folded into a “Consolidated Amendment”, it may be that its exact language need not appear in the Consolidated Amendment; it’s more like the amendment’s author agrees to implicitly withdraw the amendment if the language in the Consolidated Amendment passes.

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