Black, Latino lawmakers urge action on policing bills

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STATE HOUSE — In the wake of recent shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota and Texas, members of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus and Boston elected officials are urging Beacon Hill leaders to take action on a series of police-related policies.

A letter signed by a dozen lawmakers, as well as Boston and Suffolk County officials, calls on Gov. Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate President Stan Rosenberg and mayors to implement a series of policies aimed at eliminating “racial inequality in policing.”

The message follows the deaths last week of black men shot by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, and of five Dallas police officers killed by a sniper during a protest. Ralliers marched through Boston Wednesday night to demonstrate against police brutality.

“Vigils and rallies cannot address this problem alone,” the officials’ the officials, describing themselves as sad and outraged, wrote in their letter. “While there is a place for these important gatherings, verbal expressions of solidarity in grief are not enough. We need action now in the form of concrete policy changes.”

The letter is signed by Sens. Sonia Chang-Diaz and Linda Dorcena Forry and Reps. Evandro Carvalho, Marcos Devers, Gloria Fox, Carlos Gonzalez, Russell Holmes, Frank Moran, Byron Rushing, Benjamin Swan, Jose Tosado and Aaron Vega.

Also signed on are Suffolk County Register Felix Arroyo, Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins, Boston City Councilors Andrea Campbell, Tito Jackson, Ayanna Pressley, and Michelle Wu.

At the city level, the officials call for implementation of police body cameras, “implicit bias training” for officers, civilian review boards and funding for trauma support to “help address the systemic racial inequities we face today.”

On Tuesday, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and Police Commissioner William Evans announced the launch of a six-month police body-camera pilot program that will involve up to 100 officers.

The letter asks for statewide policy changes including updates to law enforcement training, certification and data collection; special prosecutors for police-involved shootings; amendments to wiretapping statutes “to empower citizen watchdogs”; and criminal justice reforms with reinvestments in job training and education. Lawmakers urged an end to racial profiling, saying it contributes to the “systemic racial inequities we face today.”

The policy issues raised by lawmakers in their letter are not among the major topics receiving consideration as lawmakers wind down formal sessions for the year, but legislators emphasized their feeling that actions are required now.

“Each generation is called to address the issues of its time,” the officials wrote. “One of the most pervasive issues of our time is addressing the relationship between police and our communities. We cannot afford to wait any longer.”

— Written by Katie Lannan

Copyright State House News Service