BOSTON — The debate over the new Senate bill on police reform continues Monday morning at the State House, but some police officers and Black clergy argue their voices should also be heard before any sweeping changes are passed.
“We have worked hard and earned our right to have a seat at this table and be a part of the conversation,” said Officer David Hernandez.
Police officers like David Hernandez and Sergeant Eddy Crispin say they’re frustrated to not have any say in the new Senate bill to reform policing in Massachusetts.
They’re worried the proposed changes could harm the ability for officers to do their job, especially officers of color.
“Legislators are supposed to represent the people, engage them in conversation, not just police officers, but the community; that has not happened,” said Sgt. Eddy Crispin, president of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement.
Senate Bill 2800 or the ‘Reform, Shift and Build Act’ aims to improve accountability and training for police officers while restricting their use of deadly force.
The bill also proposes eliminating qualified immunity for police, which would take away legal protections from officers if they’re accused of wrongdoing.
“I know firsthand of the shortcomings of a systemic racist world that often times impacts how police engage people of color,” Sgt. Crispin said. “But I also know all too well the harsh realities of law enforcement and how members of society view police officers without the value of context.”
While Sgt. Crispin agrees with some of the reform bill, he says every officer should still have qualified immunity to be able to appeal a case to a higher court if they’re sued.
“I think we have faith in our judges here, we always have, why not allow them to take a second or third look at the circumstances before we deny an officer the ability to carry out his or her function?” Sgt. Crispin said.
“In writing this bill, the Senate did not consult with the Black clergy or neighborhood activists who’ve been working against police brutality and collaborating for decades,” said Rev. Eugene Rivers, who works with the Youth Violence Reduction Task Force and BPD.
This group is pushing for a new panel to weigh in on the new bill, which would include police officers, clergy and people from the community before anything gets passed.
“In these times it’s important that we create impactful, meaningful change, not change for the sake of change,” Sgt. Crispin said. “We are poised and ready to be a part of the change, that change will have to get to the core of the problem, systemic racism. Let’s not hyper-focus on policing and miss the mark.”
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