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Law Enforcement Reform for Massachusetts

An Act Relative to Justice, Equity and Accountability in Law Enforcement scores meaningful wins for accountability, civilian oversight, and a vision of public safety that prioritizes de-escalation over force.

Safety Final
Accountability final

Law enforcement reform achieved final passage in the Senate and House on December 23, 2020. On December 31, Governor Baker signed An Act Relative to Justice, Equity and Accountability in Law Enforcement into law. Here’s what’s in it: 

  • Strong guardrails governing the use of force by police, including a ban on chokeholds; a ban on no-knock warrants unless police establish in a warrant that knocking would endanger lives, and a ban if children or elders are in the home; and a duty to intervene for officers witnessing the abuse of force  

  • The creation of a civilian-led Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board, with several seats designated to civil-rights and reform-oriented nominating organizations. The POST Board will have the power to:  

    • Independently investigate, with subpoena power, incidents of misconduct and de-certify officers when appropriate, making them ineligible to work as police officers in Massachusetts ever again. A number of offenses—including failure to intervene, violation of use of force laws, and making a false report— will lead to mandatory de-certification.  

    • Maintain a disclosure database so that founded complaints can be seen by the public  

    • Proactively monitor police department and officer data to identify problematic or unprofessional patterns of behavior 

    • Standardize police officer certification 

  • A ban on racial profiling, with new authority to the Attorney General to prosecute patterns of bad practice by police departments   

  • Expanded access to expunging of juvenile records 

  • Officers who are de-certified by the POST Board will no longer receive “qualified immunity” against lawsuits for their abusive acts 

  • An end to the requirement that school districts employ school police officers  

  • A prohibition on schools passing students’ personal information, unrelated to a crime, to police departments 

  • A rapid-turnaround commission to recommend parallel use of force and certification/de-certification requirements for correctional officers, and another to recommend reforms to increase diversity and community representation among civil service employees, including police officers 

  • Rigorous research to be undertaken by the Department of Mental Health to assess and recommend alternative, non-police crisis response and jail diversion initiatives, prioritizing community-based programming 

  • Restrictions and regulations on the acquisition and use of facial surveillance technology by public agencies, including the police 

  • Reform of hiring, promotion, and discipline rules—including for overtime fraud— at the State Police to strengthen accountability 


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