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Revised police accountability bill gets House approval

A protest against police brutality, following George Floyd’s death, moves up to the steps of the Massachusetts State House in Boston on May 31, 2020. Blake Nissen / The Boston Globe

BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts House has approved a revised version of a police accountability bill and sent it back to the desk of Gov. Charlie Baker who has indicated he would sign it.

The Republican governor sent the original bill approved this month back to lawmakers for revisions, included loosening proposed limits on the use of facial recognition technology. The governor said he opposed the bill’s moratorium on facial recognition technology, pointing out that it helped convict a child rapist and an accomplice to a double murder in recent years.

The bill would also create a civilian-led commission to standardize the certification, training and decertification of police officers in the state.

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Baker did not want the board to have the authority to approve training regulations, and the amendment that cleared both chambers instead keeps training oversight within a committee under the Executive Office of Public Safety.

The Senate approved the changes Monday and the House did so Tuesday.

Both chambers are expected to finish a series of procedural votes Wednesday then send it back to the governor.

The legislation is in part a response to statewide demonstrations following the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer.

The bill would also ban the use of chokeholds, limit the use of deadly force, and create a duty to intervene for police officers when witnessing another officer using force beyond what is necessary or reasonable under the circumstances.

The proposal had received some pushback from police unions, but on Tuesday the State Police Association of Massachusetts said in a statement that “we recognize the importance of this legislation.”

Some activists said the bill does not go far enough, for example, by not doing away with qualified immunity entirely. Qualified immunity largely protects police from being civilly liable for excessive use of force.

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