Tag Archives: Traffic Stops

MA House Applies Crusher To Senate’s Police Reforms

Yesterday, the Massachusetts House launched their own version of a police “reform” bill (https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H4860).

TL;DR:
The House bill is, overall, far weaker than the Senate bill. We have till 1pm tomorrow to persuade House members to submit amendments. We want to see the Senate language on qualified immunityschool resource officerspolice stops, and military equipment approvals, in the House bill. We like the House’s face surveillance language better than the Senate’s. We don’t want, or need, yet more blue-ribbon commissions to consider at length What, If Anything, To Do. It’s quite clear what the problem is:

The police spy on, shoot and hurt people without probable cause, often for racist reasons. People who do that shouldn’t be police, and people it gets done to, should get to sue the people who did it to them.

There’s not much time. You can find your House Rep’s phone number at https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator. Please call this morning!

Here’s a quick summary of the key differences:

COMPARISON OF REFORM BILLSS2800H4860
Police rape of residents outlawed?YesYes
Qualified immunity limited?YesNo
School info sharing with “gang” database limited?YesYes
Government use of face surveillance banned?Temporary, plus RMVPermanent, minus RMV
Local discretion on whether to have police in schools?YesNo
Local elected official approval process for military equipment acquisition by police?YesNo
Chokeholds outlawed if intent or result of unconsciousness or death?YesYes
No-knock warrants limited?YesYes
Data collection on police traffic and pedestrian stops to prevent profiling?YesNo

In other words, the House bill has stronger provisions on face surveillance, but strips key language from the Senate version on qualified immunity, school resource officers, military equipment for police, and data collection on traffic stops. And as a last slap in the face to the Black community in Massachusetts, the House bill takes funds designated for securing racial equity in cannabis dispensary licenses, and redirected them to yet more police training.

At Digital Fourth, we would support a bill stronger than the Senate bill. Our optimal bill here would outlaw chokeholds, tear gas, other chemical irritants, the use of dogs at protests, and police rape; end qualified immunity, end information sharing of schools with the police and ICE, ban school resource officers, end the 1033 military equipment acquisition program, end no-knock warrants, end civil asset forfeitures, reverse the delays introduced by amendment in the Senate to the decertification process, and still collect data on all police stops.

The Senate bill at least represented progress, especially with the House provisions on face surveillance added. Therefore, we support all amendments adding the Senate language back in, excepting those relating to face surveillance. But the House bill – again, excepting the face surveillance provisions – is a betrayal of everyone genuinely concerned for equal justice, and deserves to wither in the fire.This is what happens now. 

You have till 1pm tomorrow to persuade your House member to submit or endorse amendments to the House bill. Then, House leadership will allow debate, likely on Tuesday or Wednesday, and vote on them and the bill. Then, the House and Senate will create a conference committee to try to agree common language. As you can see above, there are a lot of key differences. If the conference agrees on language, the bill goes back to both bodies for a vote, and then, if passed, it goes to the Governor’s desk. If the bill is not signed by the end of the session, which is currently scheduled for July 31, then the bill dies for this session, and would be reintroduced when the new session begins in January.

Good luck, and may the Fourth be with you!

New Police-Community Relations Bill Looking Good in RI

There’s a great new police-community relations bill up in Rhode Island. Randall Rose of the Rhode Island Coalition to Defend Human and Civil Rights (CDHCR) has the goods:

Image courtesy of Salon.com.

Image courtesy of Salon.com.

The Comprehensive Community-Police Relationship Act of 2014 has just been introduced in the RI Senate. This is the result of a compromise between civil-rights people working on the issue and Rhode Island’s police. It doesn’t have everything that civil-rights people might want, but the civil-rights people who negotiated it are confident that it doesn’t take any backward steps in people’s legal rights. No hearings have been scheduled yet. In the past, many bills addressing racial profiling have failed due to public police opposition, but this time the RI Police Chiefs Association says that they will not be testifying against the bill.

This is a significant step forward if we can pass the bill. Rhode Island already has a law on the books that says racial profiling is illegal, like about 20 other states, but we don’t yet have a law that takes serious steps to reduce racial profiling. As far as I know, RI will be the only state (if this bill passes) that will take enforceable steps to reduce racial disparities in community-police interactions.

The proposed law also includes some other good things for civil liberties:

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