Our Opinion: State police OT remains an issue

The union representing Massachusetts State Police officers urged lawmakers to reject a compromise police reform and racial justice bill emerging for a vote Tuesday.

The union representing Massachusetts State Police officers urged lawmakers to reject a compromise police reform and racial justice bill emerging for a vote Tuesday, warning that it "misses the mark."

Instead, the State Police Association of Massachusetts, whose own officers have been embroiled in scandals in recent years, said in a late-night statement on Monday that legislators should restart reform efforts next year.

"The State Police Association of Massachusetts welcomes reform that will actually improve policing; unfortunately, this legislation misses the mark," the union said after Democratic lawmakers announced compromise on reform legislation. "The bill creates layers of unnecessary bureaucracy and costly commissions staffed by political appointees with no real world experience in policing and the dangers officers face every day. We urge the members of the Legislature to reject this bill and begin anew in 2021."

The conference committee's bill (S 2963) creates a police accountability panel that would certify officers — including state troopers — every three years and could revoke certification for officers found to commit wrongdoing, such as excessive use of force or falsifying timesheets. Officers whose actions lead to their decertification would lose the protections of qualified immunity in those cases.

Gov. Charlie Baker appointed a new state police leader, Col. Christopher Mason, in 2019 and filed his own State Police reform bill in January after a series of scandals rocked the agency, including multiple troopers allegedly falsifying overtime records. The bill allows the State Police colonel to come from outside the agency, empowers the colonel to discipline officers, and authorizes a new cadet program.

Other sections of the bill also ban the use of facial recognition software by public agencies except the Registry of Motor Vehicles, from which law enforcement could request a facial recognition search, and scale back the use of police officers in schools, known as school resource officers.

The Massachusetts Coalition of Police, which represents more than 4,000 officers in 157 communities, has not commented on the bill since its release Monday. House and Senate leaders are poised to bring the agreement to their chambers for approval on Tuesday.