BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts Senate early Tuesday passed a police reform bill to limit the “qualified immunity” that now shields officers from civil prosecution, puts checks on the use of chokeholds and tear gas, and requires law enforcement officers to be licensed.
The bill now moves to the House.
Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka tweeted at 5 a.m. that the final vote was 30-7.
“This begins the long, necessary work of shifting power and resources to Black communities and communities of color who have, for too long, faced criminalization and punishment instead of investment,” Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, D-Boston said after the vote, according to the Boston Herald.
The measure has come under criticism from police unions and their supporters who argue that officers should not have to worry about potential lawsuits while on patrol.
While disappointed in decision by @MA_Senate to pass S.2800, the fight goes on and the BPPA is already encouraged by @SpeakerDeLeo and his desire to seek and allow public feedback on ever important issues of basic fairness which include Due Process and Qualified Immunity.
— Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association (BPPA) (@BostonPatrolmen) July 14, 2020
Debate on the Senate bill was delayed several days by a Republican lawmaker.
Sen. Ryan Fattman used parliamentary procedures to delay debate for three consecutive days last week because he thought the bill was being rushed.
Another bill filed last month by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker would require that police be certified in Massachusetts.
Baker’s bill would allow for the decertification of officers who engage in excessive force, including chokeholds, or who fail to intervene if they see another officer using excessive force.
Massachusetts is one of only a few states without a statewide law enforcement certification program.
The bills are a response to demonstrations throughout the country following the May 25 killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.