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December 1, 2020

Statement from Rep. Pressley on Massachusetts Police Reform Legislation

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) today issued the following statement on the police reform legislation under consideration by Massachusetts state lawmakers:

“In this moment of national reckoning on police brutality and systemic racism, it is incumbent upon all of us—at all levels of government—to be bold and relentless in our pursuit of policies that address the crisis of police brutality plaguing Black and brown communities.

“The police reform legislation released by the conference committee contains a number of long overdue reforms that will help increase police accountability in the Commonwealth, including a ban on chokeholds and limits on no-knock warrants, codified standards on the use of force, limits on the use of discriminatory facial recognition technology, and provisions to reduce the over-policing and criminalization of children in our schools. This legislation is a step forward and is the product of months of tireless advocacy by my State House colleagues and partners in community, and I am grateful for their leadership.

“In the pursuit of progress, we must also be clear about where this legislation falls short. For far too long, the doctrine of qualified immunity has protected the very people charged with enforcing the law from any consequence for breaking it, allowing police officers to use their badge as a shield from accountability. The legislation does not go far enough to address this systemic problem. By merely creating a commission to study the impact of qualified immunity in the Commonwealth, and limiting immunity only for decertified officers, rather than ending the harmful doctrine outright, Massachusetts has missed an opportunity to lead by ensuring that those responsible for upholding the law are subject to it too. 

“There can be no justice without healing and accountability, and there can be no true accountability with qualified immunity. I encourage my State House colleagues and Governor Baker to swiftly enact this bill into law. And we will continue fighting for bold legislation that matches the scale and scope of the hurt so many are feeling. We will not back down in our pursuit of true justice and accountability.”

Congresswoman Pressley has led federal efforts to eliminate qualified immunity. She is the lead co-sponsor of the bi-cameral and tri-partisan Ending Qualified Immunity Act in partnership with Congressman Justin Amash (L-MI). In an op-ed published in August in the Boston Globe, Congresswoman Pressley and Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo called on lawmakers to end qualified immunity.

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