Lawmakers Need to Tap the Brakes on Police Reform [OPINION]
The mammoth police reform bill being steamrolled through the Massachusetts Senate hit a speed bump on Thursday, slowing progress considerably and raising questions about whether the legislation can even be enacted by the July 31 deadline.
Here's hoping it can be stopped in its tracks.
Senate Ways and Means Committee chair Micheal Rodrigues (D-Westport), who is leading the charge on this turkey, is threatening to keep senators in session through the weekend if necessary to get the bill passed. What's the hurry?
Senator Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton) was able to block a vote on the proposed legislation. Fattman argued the bill, which was introduced only days before, had not been given a public hearing, and senators were not given adequate time to review it or some 145 amendments to the bill that had been filed by members.
Fattman was successful in forcing a recess on Thursday afternoon to prevent the Senate from finalizing the bill under the cover of darkness in a late-night Thursday session that would lack transparency. The Massachusetts Legislature is notorious for doing the people's business when no one is watching. By forcing the delay, Fattman was able to ensure that the debate would resume in the light of day.
State House News Service reported the proposed legislation would "create an independent oversight and investigatory body to hold police accountable and create a system to certify law enforcement officers at all levels of government, with clear guidelines on the use of force by police. Law enforcement officers would also be newly required to intervene if they witness police misconduct, and submit to racism training."
The bill also allows the removal of School Resource Officers from schools and prevents school districts from providing information to police for gang databases.
The legislation is a knee-jerk reaction to recent events and is being driven by cowards too afraid to defend the police against the mob. Legislation such as this should be debated in the open after the public is given an opportunity to comment and not rushed through in the middle of the night.
Shame on Senator Rodrigues and anyone else who would affix his or her name to this bill. Slow down and give the citizens a chance to be heard.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.