Policing must be ever-evolving to meet the needs of the communities we serve. Massachusetts has been at the forefront of that evolution. The State Police Association of Massachusetts believes that trajectory should continue. However, we also believe that proposed policing reforms should be carefully considered, the implications reviewed and understood, and all relevant parties should have a voice in the decision-making.
Some recent media reports fail to acknowledge the significant police reforms newly implemented in the Commonwealth. During the past year, both the Massachusetts State Police and the Association representing troopers and sergeants have undergone changes in leadership, and substantive new measures have been put in place:
▪ State Police have increased training in the essential areas of ethics and bias-free policing.
▪ Time and attendance rules and supervisory responsibilities have been strengthened and regular payroll audits have been instituted to identify any irregularities.
▪ All cruisers now have automated vehicle locator technology. Dispatchers and supervisors are able to view a cruiser’s exact location and duration at a scene. This provides an extra layer of safety for troopers who ride alone while at the same time transmitting their whereabouts in real time.
▪ An early-intervention committee was established to review individual situations to prevent larger departmental issues.
▪ A body/cruiser camera program has been field-tested and it is expected to be rolled out in the coming months.
▪ The Office of Professional Integrity and Accountability was created to ensure that all members of the force maintain the highest ethical standards.
▪ Additional personnel have been assigned to handle trial boards and other disciplinary matters for a more efficient process.
The State Police Association has worked alongside numerous groups and individuals who have a stake in changing policing in the state. Notably, union representatives have had several meetings with legislative leadership, including the Black and Latino Caucus, so that ideas can be exchanged and all points of view shared.
As for proposed reforms, deescalation training has now been fully incorporated at the State Police Academy. A recognized use-of-force continuum and related reporting standards have been long established, and any techniques or holds intended to prevent an individual’s ability to breathe constitute lethal force. Current policy requires some warning shall be given before any use of force, if feasible. Members observing unauthorized or excessive use of force have an affirmative duty to intervene and attempt to stop it. Troopers are and should be held to a higher standard, and the overwhelming majority serve with distinction every day.
Earlier this year, we saw the catastrophic consequences of the global coronavirus pandemic. The State Police responded with distinction. When critical personal protective equipment and other medical supplies were low, troopers escorted shipments and convoys and provided site security, ensuring prompt delivery of supplies to those in need. When COVID-19 testing locations were established, troopers assisted in the planning, staffing, and safe operation. When local law enforcement departments were hit with staffing shortages and needs, troopers made sure no community was left unprotected. From temporary hospitals, treatment centers, and morgues, to emergency management and overall leadership of police services, troopers remain vital to the continued operation of the Commonwealth.
This summer, the State Police saw some of the worst unrest in decades. Some peaceful protests were hijacked by those intent on harm, and destruction and violence ensued. Despite the dangers and strained resources, troopers stood firm in the protection of first amendment rights, while being subjected to criminal acts and vicious attacks.
In the wake of the recent presidential election, the State Police continue to work with community leaders and stakeholders to facilitate and protect the free exercise of constitutional rights. As the Commonwealth and the nation confront this moment of apparent division, we urge all to speak out responsibly, be supportive of peaceful protest, and remain passionately against violence.
Policing reforms should be passed in the Legislature. The final bill should be an amalgam of the hard work put forth by everyone involved while protecting the rights of all.
Corey J. Mackey is the president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts.