Below is the body of the email which will be sent to all members of the committee.
Dear [Committee Member],
I am writing to urge your support for both effective police reform as well as support and fairness for the more than 16,000 men and women across Massachusetts who, as police officers, are committed to protecting and serving in every city and town - including your own community and all those in your district.
As a member of the House-Senate conference committee crafting a final version of this historic legislation, you have an important role to play as well as a tremendous responsibility to your constituents and the entire Commonwealth. Massachusetts is closer to having a strong reform bill that Gov. Baker can sign with confidence.
However - this process has been dangerously rushed, it has lacked full transparency, and it has excluded key stakeholders. With the legislative session now extended beyond July 31- the process on police reform must be slowed down to allow for the most thoughtful, comprehensive and inclusive examination of the important issues before you.
I am aware that the most important work was accomplished well over a month ago between the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus and the Massachusetts Law Enforcement Policy Group. The crucial reforms they agreed to were quickly endorsed by Gov. Baker and formed the core of his own legislation:
The immediate cessation of choke-holds and instruction of such in any law enforcement training curriculum; a duty to intervene provision and clear guidelines on excessive force.
Standardization of training of procedures and protocols for all police agencies in the state of Massachusetts.
Equal representation, including experienced law enforcement professionals, on any commissions that will enforce and oversee law enforcement legislation.
Accreditation and certification of all law enforcement officials.
Promoting diversity in the law enforcement field.
All these reforms improve the quality of Massachusetts policing, and as a citizen I am supportive of them. It is important to note, however, that any new guidelines around the use of force must not compromise public safety or place the lives of officers in danger.
But I am deeply troubled – like so many neighbors, friends and others I have encountered – with several damaging and punitive measures that will hurt officers and their families. It is difficult not to conclude that some Senate and House members have aligned with those who wish to punish police officers just for being police officers. I implore you, [Committee Member Name], please do not join those who have taken this unfortunate stance.
The current discussion over removing qualified immunity protections from police and other public employees must end immediately. This matter is too complex and important to be absorbed into a hurried process. Robbing officers and other public employees of this basic protection will clog the courts with nuisance lawsuits, and stick cities and towns with new financial liabilities at a time when municipal budgets face crushing fiscal challenges. It is the duty of legislators to help protect public employees and taxpayers alike from this unfair burden.
The issue of qualified immunity requires much study and deliberation, and the Conference Committee should set it aside for that reason.
Additionally, as stated above, the accreditation of all police departments should be part of any reform legislation. Accountability for policing must include police chiefs, commissioners, and all other leaders who determine a department’s policies and culture. I can only assume you would agree that accountability and a healthy culture in any organization begins at the top.
Finally, the proposed legislation that yourself and other conferees are considering threatens to set back by many years the efforts and progress that law enforcement has made in the management of medical and mental health issues for the citizens of the Commonwealth. This is nothing less than a statewide policy tragedy in progress. Law enforcement officers are a crucial part of the necessary personnel infrastructure for managing volatile incidents involving mental health crises, situations requiring protective custody and other unpredictable situations. The safety and lives of medical professionals, social service providers, and other personnel who routinely work collaboratively with officers to manage such incidents will be placed in jeopardy by the current language in House and Senate bills. Public safety will also be compromised, and the self-protective needs of those experiencing mental health, emotional or substance-abuse crises will not be served.
[Committee Member] - thank you for taking the time to read my email and understand my grave concerns about this flawed legislation, but also to recognize my support for effective police reform. Please do the right thing and allow adequate time for this most important legislation to be properly crafted and debated. I am confident you will make the correct decisions at this historic moment – and in so doing serve your constituents in the way they would expect.
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