Over the past few weeks, we have seen and heard voices calling for action to address and end police brutality, racial inequality, and inherent bias across our society. The peaceful demonstrations we have seen locally, some of the largest I have seen as a lifelong resident of Cape Ann, show how deeply our communities care about correcting injustice and inequities in our system.
I have heard these voices, as well as from many of you personally, whether by phone, email, or over social media. I want you to know that I have heard you and agree that there is no room for police brutality in our democracy.
However, I am very aware of the fact that some of my Black and Latino colleagues may be better versed in the experiences and solutions to these haunting issues as they represent districts in which the minority communities are larger than ours on Cape Ann. Therefore, I have spoken with these colleagues and have offered to work with them to bring about change and solutions, understanding that it is members from communities of color that will lead on this issue.
This week, the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus met with House leadership for a frank discussion, led by members from communities of color that have been directly impacted by structural inequities in our system. I am pleased to say that this discussion was a productive one. House leadership and the BLLC have agreed to immediately proceed with an omnibus legislative proposal, with the goal of having it on Governor Baker’s desk before July 31st.
This legislation, which should be viewed as the first step in a longer process, will focus on three main points:
- The immediate creation of an independent Office of Police Standards and Professional Conduct to ensure minimum statewide policies and procedures for all law enforcement in the Commonwealth, including procedures on the use of force, as well as statewide oversight and accountability, including police officer certification and enhanced training
- Immediate changes to policies and laws, including the abolition of the use of the chokehold by law enforcement and the establishment of an affirmative obligation for all law enforcement officers to intervene in a situation where a fellow officer improperly or illegally uses force
- The establishment of a special legislative commission to study and examine the civil service law and recommend changes to ensure more opportunity for minority recruitment
Even as we continue to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, House leadership, the BLLC, and the chairs of the relevant committees will begin to work on the details of these individual points over the coming days and weeks to produce a bill for timely consideration and passage before the end of this legislative session.
After this first step, conversations will continue on further action to help address structural inequalities, led by the communities affected by these issues, to ensure that we provide for meaningful change not only in our criminal justice system, but also in education, economic development, housing, workforce development, income inequality, and other areas that touch many different communities in our Commonwealth.
The issues that we are confronting will not be fixed by one or two pieces of legislation or in one legislative session. However, I am committed today and every other day to make sure that this important work gets done. To be effective, change is going to take all of us working together, teaching each other, aware of our own inherent biases, allowing those more affected by these issues to lead, to ensure that we bend the arc of history towards justice through our words and deeds. I look forward to continuing this important work alongside and on behalf of all the residents of Cape Ann.