More than 100 organizations announced support for two Massachusetts bills that would hold police accountable for violence and abuse. The groups—including labor, faith, domestic violence, gun violence prevention, and racial justice groups—are calling on the legislature to pass legislation that would set clear limits on use of force against civilians and end qualified immunity.
The ACLU and endorsing organizations support two police accountability bills currently before the state legislature: An Act to Save Black Lives (HD5128/SD2968), introduced by Representative Liz Miranda and Senator Cindy Creem, would require police to de-escalate and use minimal force, and would ban extremely violent tactics such as chokeholds, tear gas, rubber bullets, and no-knock warrants. An Act to Secure Civil Rights (H.3277), introduced by Representative Michael Day, would limit qualified immunity in Massachusetts and strengthen existing state law to hold law enforcement officials accountable for violations of people’s rights. While many of the endorsing organizations also support many other needed legislative proposals, they share the belief that the provisions in these two bills cannot wait.
“For years, activists and organizations have been calling for the reckoning we now see in the streets, and Massachusetts has a responsibility to meet their call,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “The current spotlight on police violence provides state policymakers an opportunity to pass bold, systemic changes that completely reimagine policing in the Commonwealth. Adopting the provisions in these two bills is a fundamental first step. In addition, legislation must also address dangerous expansion of police powers that exacerbate police abuses and systemic racism, like face surveillance technology."
Endorsing organizations include 1199SEIU, ADL New England, Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, Jane Doe Inc., MA Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, National Association of Social Workers - MA Chapter, the New England Area Conference of the NAACP, Violence in Boston, Inc., and 92 other statewide and local groups from around the Commonwealth.
"The time is now, and half-measures will not suffice,” said Juan M. Cofield, President, NAACP-New England Area Conference. “We need serious change in the way law enforcement engages with the Black community—beginning with substantive limits on use of force, bans on the most violent police tactics, and the ability for victims of civil rights violations to get justice in court. These core police accountability protections cannot wait."
An Act to Save Black Lives has been referred to the Joint Committee on Rules. Meanwhile, An Act to Secure Civil Rights has been voted out favorably by the Judiciary Committee. The Massachusetts Legislature has until the end of session on July 31 to pass meaningful police reforms and could include these bills as part of a comprehensive package.