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How George Floyd's death sparked major changes in Massachusetts

By Sharman Sacchetti | May 25, 2021

BOSTON — Tuesday, May 25, marks one year since George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer.

Floyd's murder sparked protests in Massachusetts and across the country -- most of them peaceful, some violent -- as demonstrators called for greater accountability for police officers.

"After seeing the murder of George Floyd, you could not, as a human and someone who believes in humanity, not do something," said Tanisha Sullivan, president of the NAACP's Boston branch.

"Their voices really did make an impact," Massachusetts State Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz.

In December 2020, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a sweeping police reform bill into law. The new law, among other changes, set up a commission to certify and decertify police officers, banned the use of chokeholds by police and limited the use of no-knock warrants.

"While the unimaginable tragedy of his death has served as a catalyst for meaningful racial justice and police reform in Massachusetts and nationwide, our work is not yet done," Baker tweeted Tuesday.

"We are the model for the whole country in terms of police reform," said State Rep. Frank Moran.

"What changed, primarily, was that other folks started to understand that what we had been saying the entire time was real: that Black people had been being killed for a long, long time and it was unfortunate that it was happening behind a blue wall," said State Rep. Russell Holmes.

One year after Floyd's death, there is some concern that the reforms that were passed in Massachusetts are not being put into action fast enough.

"It was absolutely a gigantic step forward. That said, we are lagging as it relates to implementation," Sullivan said.

According to its website, the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission -- the Massachusetts commission that has the power to certify and decertify police officers -- has met once so far on May 13.

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