To All MassCOP Members,
This coming week is one of the most important in Massachusetts Law Enforcement history. I cannot overstate the importance to our members of what is expected to transpire in the Legislature and the potential for sweeping changes to take place. You have all held your heads high and have conducted yourselves with the utmost dignity and professionalism even as some Senators insinuated that it is commonplace for law enforcement officers in Massachusetts to violate people’s civil rights, to abuse police powers, and to routinely use excessive force. You and I know that all of those accusations are so far from the truth, so completely false, that it is beyond insulting. We take the honor and responsibility of being police officers very seriously and we, more than anyone else, want to ensure that law enforcement works and is held to the highest standards.
Yesterday, members of the Massachusetts Law Enforcement Policy Group (MLEPG), John Nelson, Larry Calderone, and Mike Muse spoke with Senators Chang-Diaz, Brownsberger, and Keenan as well with three members of various NAACP offices, two members of the ACLU, and in-house counsel for the Senate Ways and Means. It was essentially admitted in these meetings that the only reason for going after Qualified Immunity was to go after individual police officers financially. The whole notion that attempting to change QI for purposes of getting the “Bad Actors” off police forces is a complete fallacy.
During a meeting, one participant went so far to say that the QI proposal, in S. 2800 does not go far enough. The stated purpose of the meeting was to find common ground and to create a proposal that could get through the Senate without a fight. MLEPG stayed the course and held firm that the ONLY proposal that was even considerable was Amendment #137. Amendment #137 would put the issue ofQI into a study because of the complexity of the issue and we feel that only experts in this field should be the ones whose opinions and council matter the most.
As the nearly three-hour meeting went on, it was readily apparent that even the people who professed to know the subject matter intimately, are as confused as we “simple police” officers are. Our representatives were told to have proposed changes by 9 A.M. this morning but the proposal that was put forward is that Amendment #137 MUST be passed. It is imperative that QI be studied by experts – not rushed into legislation that could imperil the homes and life savings of police officers who carry out their jobs in good faith.
This week the Senate will be voting on S. 2800. At the same time, the House will be delivering their proposals on the legislation. We anticipate that there wi ll be some striking differences between the two Bills but we will not know for sure until the House’s version is delivered. We’ve just completed a tremendously busy week dealing with the Senate proposal and debate – this week that work will be compounded as we lobby on proposals from both House and Senate that will absolutely have an effect on how we do our jobs.
I know 1 have been asking a lot from you these last few days and I’m sure some of you think that one call to your legislator is enough. It is not.. The calls you made last week had a significant effect on that debate and the future of these proposals. We must not let up now. The groups that are working directly against you are constantly putting out messaging for their followers to contact their state representatives and tell them that QI, Due Process, and the Commission Board make-up MUST not be decided by law enforcement.
We all must call, email, text, and Tweet our Senators and let them know what we EXPECT of them:
– Vote Yes on Amendment #114 – the Commission Board Make-Up
– Vote Yes on Amendment #134- Due Process
– Vote Yes on Amendment #137- Qualified Immunity to a study.
Senators need to understand that we are keeping score, and anything l ess than their support for A LL three amendments is a vote against supporting their local law enforcement officers and will be taken as such. Please be respectful but be firm and steadfast that these issues matter greatly to you, your members, your families, and the citizens we serve.
When the House’s version on pol ice reform is released, we will break the Bill down and get you the important information as quickly as possible. It is unfortunate and unfair that both the Senate and the House have turned this whole process into a farce by not allowing public hearings, debate, and careful and thoughtful investigation and research into the ramifications of each proposal. In short, it could be construed that this is how little some people in the legislature think of us as individuals and of our profession.
Please be ready to go this week at a moment’s notice, have family and friends ready to go at a moment’s notice, and be ready to fight for what is fair and just!
Scott A. Hovsepian