Black leaders: Lawmakers must OK police accountability bill

Massachusetts

BOSTON, Mass. (AP) — More than 50 Black leaders and organizations from across Massachusetts are pressing state lawmakers to act on a stalled police accountability bill.

The Massachusetts House and Senate have approved separate versions of the bill. A conference committee has been working to hammer out a final version of the legislation.

In a letter to lawmakers, the advocates say that any final bill must have a series of components, including a strong Peace Officer Standards and Training system, limits on the use of force, limits to qualified immunity, a commission to study the civil service exam and a requirement to collect data on police stops.

“In order for Massachusetts to move closer to becoming that exceptional Commonwealth where justice no longer eludes our communities, the legislature must have the political courage to meet this moment,” Michael Curry, a national NAACP board member from Brockton, said in a written statement.

The group is planning a virtual rally Sunday at 2 p.m.

The policing overhaul effort has been met with opposition from some Republican lawmakers and police unions, who are particularly concerned about efforts to limit qualified immunity. They argue that police sometimes must make split-second decisions to protect public safety.

On Thursday, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker also called on lawmakers to come to a resolution on the bill and get it to his desk for his signature.

“I really hope that at some point this fall, we have a chance to appropriately celebrate the signing of legislation that will, hopefully, deal with and solve some of these very important and significant public safety issues going forward,” Baker said at a press conference.

Baker made the comment after acknowledging the police killing of Breonna Taylor. Outrage over a grand jury’s decision not to bring homicide charges against the officers who burst into the Black woman’s apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, six months ago set off demonstrations this week in several cities across the country.

“What happened to Breonna Taylor was a horrible, terrible tragedy, and unfortunately in our country, too many tragedies like this befall people of color and far too often,” Baker said. “I think everybody appreciates the pain and the loss being felt and suffered by her family and her loved ones during this incredibly unimaginable time.”

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