Massachusetts poised to enact police reforms following George Floyd's death

Nate Raymond
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker speaks to incoming U.S. citizens during an official Naturalization Ceremony in Boston

By Nate Raymond

BOSTON (Reuters) - Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker plans to sign a police reform bill after lawmakers on Wednesday approved a compromise measure that included concessions on police training and facial recognition technology needed to garner his support.

The Democratic-led state House of Representatives and Senate approved a reform package they redrafted after Baker, a Republican, sent an earlier version back that had provisions he opposed and that he said he would not support.

Baker told a news conference he would be "honored" to sign the latest version, which lawmakers pushed forward after nationwide racial justice protests that followed George Floyd's death in Minneapolis under a police officer's knee in May. The governor said he expected to sign the measure next week.

The bill's passage follows efforts by other states and cities nationally to adopt law enforcement reforms. Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo said the compromise bill "lays the groundwork for continued improvement."

A central provision is the establishment of an independent commission that would have the authority to certify and decertify officers and oversee misconduct investigations.

After Baker opposed giving the civilian-controlled panel authority over training standards, the legislature approved his proposal to keep training oversight within the municipal police training committee, which his administration oversees.

The bill limits legal protections for officers the commission decertifies for misconduct, bars officers from using "chokeholds" and places restrictions on "no-knock warrants."

The revised legislation also scales back restrictions on the use by public agencies of facial recognition technology, after Baker said he opposed a proposed moratorium on its use by law enforcement.

Police unions opposed the legislation. Supporters welcomed it.

"This bill represents meaningful progress for Massachusetts, even as more work remains to be done," Carol Rose, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Peter Cooney)