New Police Reform Bill Released

Quick summary of S. 2963, the MA police reform bill, as compared to previous versions.

Ignore the acres of verbiage on commissions. Maybe they’ll work, maybe they won’t, but they’re likelier to drag out and thwart police accountability than to promote it. So: What real reforms were blocked and what were included?

First, and most crucially, police reformers didn’t get any limitations on qualified immunity. Without that, police officers know they’ll still likely face no consequences for violating people’s rights in Massachusetts – which they do a lot. MA punted where CO led.

Second, the bill contains important, if long-overdue reforms. It outlaws police rape of people in their custody. It allows municipalities to not have a school resource officer. It limits school information sharing with gang databases. It limits no-knock warrants (RIP, Breonna Taylor.) The bill outlaws chokeholds resulting in unconsciousness or death. And it bans biometric surveillance without a time limit (though RMV is still allowed to do it).

But the final version also omits important things. No limits on military equipment acquisition by police; no data collection on police stops; it never envisioned doing anything on civil asset forfeitures, or requiring warrants for use of drones or stingrays or other police surveillance tech.

In summary: The reforms that are real are the ones police unions really felt they could not block. The fact that there are some reforms they couldn’t block shows that there are limits to their massive resistance. And the battle on qualified immunity is just beginning.

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