BOSTON (Reuters) – Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker sent a major police reform bill that lawmakers approved last week back to the Democratic-led state legislature, saying he opposed certain provisions and that absent any changes he would not sign it.
Leaders of the state House of Representatives and Senate had called the legislation one of the most comprehensive reform packages to be adopted nationally following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis while in police custody in May.
A central provision was the establishment of a new, independent commission that would have the authority to certify and decertify officers, oversee misconduct investigations and standardize training.
The bill also limits legal protections for officers the commission decertifies for violating a person’s right to bias-free professional policing. It also bars officers from using “chokeholds” and places restrictions on “no-knock warrants.”
Baker, a Republican, said he was prepared to accept having the commission be independent, in contrast to his own earlier proposal, so long as the tasks assigned to it are achievable.
But while Baker said he believed the bill overall “promotes improved police accountability,” it also contained proposals “that I cannot accept because they introduce barriers to effective administration and the protection of public safety.”
Baker said he opposed the bill’s moratorium on facial recognition technology. That was part of a first-in-the-nation statewide moratorium on biometric surveillance systems.
And he said he opposed moving oversight of the current Municipal Police Training Commission to the newly-established, civilian-majority commission, the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission.
“I do not accept the premise that civilians know best how to train police,” Baker said.
The Massachusetts legislation had faced strong opposition from police unions. The House on Dec. 1 voted 92-67 to approve the legislation, which is below a veto-proof majority, after the Senate voted 28-12 in favor.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; editing by Grant McCool)