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Correspondence from President Hovsepian re: Qualified Immunity and Capitol Hill

By June 16, 2021September 8th, 2021Uncategorized

June 16, 2021

 

Dear Members:

 

For more than a year, the Massachusetts Coalition of Police has been fighting hard to ensure that our more than 4,600 members have their voices heard and their families not forgotten as politicians and others decide policing policy that will affect our lives and our livelihoods every day.

That effort continues on Beacon Hill as the Commonwealth’s police reform bill is implemented and in the 173 communities where MassCOP serves. Our commitment to you is that MassCOP leadership and your fellow members are not only right behind you every day on the job, but ready to provide support when municipal and state officials do not respect the best interest of those sworn to protect and serve.

Unfortunately, the political wildfire of anti-police rhetoric continues to rage, and it is spreading and escalating with alarming speed on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Several members of our own Massachusetts delegation – including a U.S. Senator who has spent more than 40 years in Washington – have taken a lead role in an all-out attack on our qualified immunity rights. They have also shown little diplomacy in their words: betraying a disdain for police officers and the households they support like nothing we have ever seen from our elected officials.

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey has falsely called our qualified immunity rights “one of the foremost tools of oppression” and urged Americans to “disarm” police officers and “every … police department in the United States. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, meanwhile, joined Sen. Markey in filing legislation March 1 st that would fully end qualified immunity for all police nationwide. She has doubled down on her anti-police rhetoric in the time since – refusing to compromise even as others in Congress seek a bipartisan solution on police reform.

Today, however, we face yet another threat and one that could completely disrupt and destroy the policing profession in America as we know it – while also making communities less safe. The National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) – which represents the interests of MassCOP members and thousands of other police officers in Washington – informs us that Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has subverted police reform negotiations by cutting out NAPO completely, and even excluding elected official negotiators, such as Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC).

Sen. Booker has created a police reform proposal – with input from almost no other members of Congress – that is not only untenable but is an all-out effort to punish and criminalize police officers for doing their jobs and protecting their communities in good faith.

Among the damaging provisions in Sen. Booker’s 125-page legislative proposal:

• Sen. Booker’s dangerous bill proposes adding four new federal criminal offenses to incarcerate state and local police officers; it expands pattern and practice investigations and specifically adds prosecutors, not just investigators, to the process; and it authorizes $750 million to hire prosecutors specifically for prosecuting individual officers involved in use of force incidents.

• It does away with both Sovereign Immunity for both State and Federal law enforcement agencies and does not protect officer’s qualified immunity at all. In fact, it specifically reminds readers that they can still sue individual officers “under this section or under any other source of law.”

• The Booker legislation would create a public “National Police Accountability Database” into which individual officer information would be entered, without basic due process protections of notice and an opportunity to be heard. It also provides for lawsuits against individual law enforcement officers in State and Federal courts for alleged acts of discrimination, which are defined to include disparate impact of official agency policies.

• It restricts the justification defense for officers in use of force cases.

• It bans facial recognition technology and requires discipline of officers for bodycam policy violations, without requiring due process.

• It robs police officers of tools to keep the peace by restricting tear gas and OC spray for use only against “violent” offenders, not to disperse.

• It provides $50 million for reinstatement of offenders suspended or revoked driver’s licenses, yet ZERO dollars for addressing officer suicides. In fact, the Booker bill lacks any language at all on officer suicide, or on protecting officers who are whistle-blowers. It also severely restricts the confidentiality of peer-counselor communications by officers who have experienced a critical incident.

That is only a partial list of the ways this bill will hurt police officers, place their families and households at financial risk, and make communities across the U.S. less safe.

 

Shockingly, Sen. Booker’s proposal attempts to nationalize local police training, oversight, and regulation. As NAPO has explained it: The Booker legislation “in effect sets up a situation where the Department of Justice will be managing the hiring, training, deployment, and policy, including use of force and equipment, for every state and local agency. It would make law enforcement more dangerous and difficult for officers and it would exacerbate the already dire recruitment and retention issues facing state and local agencies.”

MassCOP members: With this looming threat from Sen. Booker and the constant barrage of anti-police rhetoric from Sen. Markey and Congresswoman Pressley, I want to make you a promise right here, and then I want to ask for your help at this crucial moment.

I pledge to you that your MassCOP leadership team and Board – empowered by and responsible to the 4,600 members of this Union – will fight these attacks with every opportunity, every relationship, every idea and every resource we have access to. We will wage a campaign to hold our Massachusetts delegation accountable for their rhetoric, their actions, and their betrayal of the very police who protect their communities, and we will work with NAPO to fiercely oppose Sen. Booker’s devastating vision of policing in America. That is my promise to you today.

My ask to you? It’s simple: Please make yourself heard! We must make it clear to our own members of Congress that the Booker proposal and the relentless campaign against qualified immunity from Sen. Markey and Congresswoman Pressley are unacceptable to police households representing more than 16,100 Massachusetts voters.

MassCOP will be making campaign materials, contact info, messaging and other resources available to you in the coming days to enable your efforts and make them easy and fast. Additionally, we will be supporting your critical direct outreach with a major campaign that will strongly oppose these political attacks on police, and hold elected officials who have betrayed your duty and your oath accountable for their actions and words.

Thank you for your service to the cities and towns of the Commonwealth each and every day, and for your commitment to standing in unity with your fellow officers.

Sincerely,

Scott A. Hovsepian, President

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