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Let House legislators know your views about police reform bills

Lori Kenschaft of Arlington provided this letter to the editor. Note: Early on Tuesday, July 14, police reform bills were passed by the state Senate.

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Massachusetts legislators are currently debating police reform bills that would reduce the risk of police misconduct and begin to address some of the larger issues. The formal legislative year ends on July 31, so the time for action is now.

Our local legislators all support police reform, but they still need to hear from us. Police unions and their allies are lobbying hard. I've heard both Sen. Cindy Friedman and Sen. Will Brownsberger talk about the Senate bill in the last 24 hours and they are both very strong advocates for it -- but they need to hear from supportive constituents as well as critics.

Please call or email your state representative and senator and tell them you want to see a strong police reform bill enacted and signed by the end of July. Equally important, I hope you'll consider asking people in other parts of the state to contact their legislators.

A month ago Gov. Baker proposed a bill that would create a much-needed statewide certifying board for police officers (which 46 states already have). The state Senate is currently discussing 146 possible amendments to a big bill (S.2800) that would create a statewide certifying board and also ban choke holds, put tighter limits on the use of force and military equipment, tighten qualified immunity and increase police accountability for civil rights violations, ban racial profiling and require data-collection that shows whether it is occurring, and many other important things. The House is working on yet a third bill behind the scenes.

No bill can solve all the problems with policing. (I highly recommend this Commonwealth Magazine article on the bigger picture.)

And no one can predict what exactly will be in the bill that comes out of the House-Senate conference committee. Some kind of statewide certifying board seems likely, but everything else is up for grabs until we see the House's bill. But please don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If we lose this opportunity, we won't have another for months or perhaps years.

If you can, please also share this email with friends and family in other parts of Massachusetts. If they don't have their legislators' contact info, they can look them up here >> The more legislators hear from their constituents, the better.

Thank you very much for reading this email, and for doing what you can.

I hope you and yours are safe and healthy, and finding some ways to nurture your spirit during these challenging times.


This letter was published Tuesday, July 14, 2020.

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