Massachusetts Governor Signs Amended Police “Reform” Bill
FAIR Take | January 2021
Working on New Year’s eve to enact so-called “police reform,” Governor Charlie Baker (R) signed the final version of the bill which the state legislature had been working on since July. The new law contains a few significant changes that Baker requested, but will still likely hamper immigration enforcement and endanger public safety.
The bill, after spending months in a conference committee working out differences between the more liberal Senate and the more moderate House of Representatives, was first sent to Governor Baker on December 1. Despite months to reconcile the bill, it passed both chambers by narrow margins (even smaller than the chambers’ original votes) and likely would not have been able to survive a veto. This was especially true in the House, where it would not have had the two-thirds supermajority needed for an override.
Law enforcement groups, as well as FAIR, strongly urged Gov. Baker to veto the conference report outright. However, on December 10 he returned the bill to the legislature with a proposed amendment making changes throughout the bill.
For a time, some of the more radical lawmakers demanded that the governor’s amendment be rejected. Several players on the Boston Celtics joined with them, despite Governor Baker making clear he’d veto an unchanged bill. However, on December 21, the Senate passed the bill with his amendment and on December 22, the House followed suit, returning the bill to his desk for signature.
Compared to the conference report, the final bill as signed into law:
- moves most of the policy and training recommendation authority from the independent majority-civilian peace officer standards and training commission to the majority-law enforcement municipal police training committee, which is under the auspices of the governor’s office;
- retains immigration status as a basis to find “misconduct” by "bias,” potentially subjecting officers and departments to discipline;
- leaves untouched certain provisions making public schools into sanctuaries, i.e., non-communication by school resource officers with immigration authorities, etc;
- allows the use of facial recognition rather than imposing a ban, but requires an individualized request to the Registry of Motor Vehicles based on specific requirements, and also requires reporting of each such request; and
- creates a commission to further study facial recognition, including a possible ban or further restrictions such as requiring a warrant; the commission has only one member who must be law enforcement (the President of the MA Police Chiefs Association or designee) while named outside groups get appointments.
Of particular note, even after the governor’s amendment, it still gives open-borders groups appointments to several new or expanded statewide oversight boards and thus the ability to refashion police objectives to protect illegal aliens, including but not limited to punishing law enforcement and corrections officers who cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
Despite Governor Baker saying he was “committed to enhancing and improving public safety,” the legislation he signed seems likely to do the opposite, even with the changes he demanded.
Meanwhile, those who wish to go even further in undermining law enforcement already appear to be gearing up for the future, with Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston) saying “This law represents a mile-marker, not an end.”