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Last updated March 5, 2020
No knock warrants
S.2963, passed in December 2020, limits the use of no-knock warrants to instances where officers can prove that no child or person over the age of 65 is in the home at the time of the planned no-knock warrant.
Massachusetts has not yet enacted a law ending its participation in programs that facilitate the transfer of military weapons from the federal government to police departments.
Pending Legislation: SD. 1736, introduced in February 2021, limits the ability of local law enforcement agencies to procure military-grade weapons from the federal government by requiring that the agency clear its request with the local legislative body.
Military style training
S.2963 institutionalizes accountability measures for the limited use of tear gas, rubber bullets, or police dogs. However, the bill does not explicitly address the militant mentality associated with the use of these tactics.
Massachusetts has not yet enacted a law requiring the recording and cataloging of SWAT team use.
Civil asset forfeiture
Massachusetts has not yet enacted a law ending civil asset forfeiture. Police can keep up to 100% of civil forfeiture assets, and they only need the lowest burden of proof (the police only have to "reasonably believe" that the assets were involved in a crime), and the burden is on the civilian to prove that they are innocent, (no presumption of innocence). The governor commissioned a review of civil forfeiture practices in 2019, but the results are not available to the public.
A court case in 2003 ruled that any quotas on tickets or arrests issued by the state police would be illegal in Massachusetts. This does not provide a system of internal enforcement or codified law, however, only de jure case credibility for citizens who sue.
Cost of misconduct
Massachusetts has not yet enacted a law requiring police departments (not state general funds) to cover the cost of misconduct.
Massachusetts has completely and thoroughly decriminalized minor cannabis charges and disturbing the peace, and, to an extent, loitering. S.1146, introduced in 2017, would have decriminalized several minor offenses, but it died in committee in 2019.
Objective justification for stops
Massachusetts has not yet enacted a law requiring officers to establish objective justification for making a stop.
Reporting stop details
Massachusetts has not yet enacted a law requiring comprehensive reporting of police stops (noting location, race, gender, whether force was used and whether a firearm was found).
Reckless civil rights violation
Massachusetts has not yet enacted a law lowering the prosecution requirement from ‘willful’ to ‘reckless’ deprivation of another’s rights.
Massachusetts has not yet enacted a law institutionalizing an independent prosecutor within the state’s Department of Justice for instances of police misconduct. S.2963, signed into law in December 2020, did create a civilian oversight board with the power to subpoena and decertify officers. However, this provision does not address the prosecution and legal culpability of an officer accused of misconduct.
S.2963 also revokes civil liability protections from officers that have been decertified. After loosing his/her certification, and officer can be held individually responsible for civil liberty violations like excessive use of force, false arrest, and malicious prosecution.
Mental health response
The MA Department of Mental Health facilitates a Jail/Arrest Diversion program to train officers on mental health response techniques and offer grants for local departments to work with mental health clinicians. Bill S.2200, passed July 2020, establishes the Criminal Justice and Community Support Trust Fund to help accomplish the following, including but not limited to (Sec. 26): Fund jail diversion programs for individuals with a mental illness or substance use disorder and provide appropriate treatment options; and Develop and strengthen communities heavily impacted by the criminal justice system by providing job training, creation, and placement. Additionally, S.2963 calls for a legislative study on the viability of replacing police officers with mental health professionals in some crisis situations. However, the bill does not institutionalize this process.
Education, Housing, Community Health Resources
It is important to note that policing does not address the roots of social disadvantage and barriers to (economic) opportunity that often lead to crime. Nor should police be burdened with that responsibility.
Without access to quality resources in healthcare, education, and housing, our cities, neighborhoods, and families will continue to suffer. We should instead reassess the budgets of the state government and reinvest in the services that matter most.
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