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Democrats in MA approve major police reform bill, banning choke-holds and removing some protections for officers


Massachusetts lawmakers on Tuesday approved a major police reform bill in the wake of protests over George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis that creates a new system for officer accountability, restricts no-knock warrants and bans chokeholds.

Leaders of the state House of Representatives and Senate called the legislation one of the most comprehensive reform packages to be adopted nationally in response to calls for racial justice in the aftermath of Floyd’s death in police custody in May.

Tuesday’s votes by the Democratic-led chambers followed efforts by other states and cities from coast to coast to adopt law enforcement reforms.

The Massachusetts legislation faced strong opposition from police unions. The House voted 92-67 to approve the legislation after the Senate voted 28-12 in favor.

Republican Governor Charlie Baker, who put forward his policing legislation in June, has not said if he will sign it. Baker is “committed to enhancing and improving public safety” and will review the legislation, a spokesman said.

A two-thirds vote in each chamber would be required to override a veto by the governor.

Under the legislation, a new commission would have the authority to certify and decertify officers, oversee misconduct investigations and standardize training.

The legislation stops short of limiting “qualified immunity” for certified officers. That’s a legal doctrine that has nationally helped cops beat back lawsuits that accuse them of excessive force. But the measure would limit those protections if the newly established Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission decertifies an officer for violating a person’s right to bias-free professional policing.

The bill also bars officers from using “chokeholds” and places restrictions on “no-knock warrants.”

The Massachusetts legislation also creates what lawmakers say would be a first-in-the-nation statewide moratorium on biometric surveillance systems, including facial recognition technology.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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