Below is a message from the Wilmington Police Patrol Officers Union, which first appeared on its Facebook page:
WILMINGTON, MA — The Massachusetts Senate passed Senate Bill s2800 this morning at 4 am. To say that we are disappointed and disheartened would be an understatement. S2800 was passed without a public hearing and without input from law enforcement leaders within the Commonwealth. This bill is held up by supporters as an overhaul of policing within the Commonwealth, however in reality it is a knee jerk reaction to national events and misinformation about how policing is actually performed within our state.
Required standardized training and required de-escalation training are already being taught at the recruit and in-service (continuing education) level within Mass. Officers are required every year to complete 40 hours of in-service (continuing education) training to include: use of force, de-escalation, bias, CPR/First Responder, mental health interactions, legal updates, and varying other topics. On top of this 40 hours we also receive additional firearm, less lethal weapon and taser training. On top of that many departments, including Wilmington PD, send their officers to autism awareness training and CIT training (which is focused on identifying and responding to calls involving mental health issues).
Qualified immunity allows for officers to be protected from frivolous lawsuits while in the performance of their duties if they are following the law and their department policies and procedures. If an officer is not following these and causes harm to another then that officer is personally liable. With the changes to qualified immunity in this bill even officers who are following the law, their training, and the department policies can be held personally liable for injuries sustained by an assaultive suspect.
Chokeholds are a major point of focus during the recent protests and this bill. The Municipal Police Training Committee, the body responsible for training municipal officers in the Commonwealth does not teach chokeholds as part of the curriculum. Chokeholds are already banned, except for in instances where an officer is in fear for her/his life. This bill has made it so that now if an officer is in a situation where the only way to survive is to apply a chokehold the Massachusetts Senate expects that officer to simply die.
A part of this bill which is very confusing to most cops is it’s limiting of tear gas usage. Tear gas is used as a less lethal means of crowd dispersal. Prior to tear gas crowds were dispersed by more violent means (batons, hoses, and firearms). Is the Senate asking police to return to these methods? Is the Senate asking police to always allow gathered crowds to do whatever they please?
An oversight committee with the power to certify, decertify, and make requirements on the law enforcement profession which is made up of not a single law enforcement officer. There is not another profession in this state which has its oversight done by those who are not in the profession. This would be like having an oversight committee for dentists made up entirely of cops.
The really concerning part about this bill is the broad and far reaching language which it has. The bill was so hastily put together that its language in regards to collective bargaining and qualified immunity applies to all public sector employees. All public labor unions in the Commonwealth lose their effectiveness. Firefighters, DPW workers, and even Teachers are now on the hook personally if someone does not like the job they have done.
The Massachusetts Senate passed this in order to say that they are doing something, and in doing so insulted every citizen of this Commonwealth. This bill was not passed by means of a fair and democratic process. Instead it was a pathetic attempt to pander to vocal special interest groups which do not understand the intricacies involved in law enforcement. Why did they not have an open dialogue with members from the community and law enforcement? There is nothing that we as police would like more than to be able to communicate with our community members in a constructive and respectful way in order to provide a public service that is fair, just and safe for everyone involved. Senate Bill s2800 is not the means to have those conversations.
As this bill now passes over to the House, and hopefully onto a public hearing, we ask that you reach out to your State Representatives and voice your concerns. We welcome everyone who has any questions about this bill or policing in the Commonwealth to contact us, we are always happy to have a conversation.
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