Massachusetts lawmakers ban chokeholds and limit tear gas use in police reform bill

Massachusetts lawmakers ban chokeholds and limit tear gas use in police reform bill
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The Massachusetts state legislature has passed police reform legislation that seeks to ban chokeholds and carotid restraints as well as form a commission that would investigate officer misconduct.

The measure, which passed on Tuesday and was sent to Gov. Charlie Baker (R) for consideration, states that it would bar law enforcement officers from using chokeholds and being trained to use "lateral vascular neck restraints" and carotid restraints.

The measure would also prohibit officers from being trained to resort to any other action that involves “the placement of any part of law enforcement officer’s body on or around a person’s neck in a manner that limits the person’s breathing or blood flow.”

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If signed into law by Baker, the bill would also require officers executing search warrants to “knock and announce their presence and purpose before forcibly entering a residence unless authorized by a warrant.”

The measure said no-knock warrants would be able to be issued only if approved by a judge and only in cases that the “affidavit supporting the request for the warrant” establishes “probable cause that if the law enforcement officer announces their presence their life or the lives of others will be endangered” and “includes an attestation that the law enforcement officer filing the affidavit has no reason to believe that minor children or adults over the age of 65 are in the home.” 

The provision comes after widespread protests against police brutality broke out in the nation earlier this year following the police killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans.

Taylor, a 26-year-old Black EMT with no criminal history, was fatally shot by police officers in plainclothes that had arrived at her home in Louisville late at night in March with a no-knock warrant as part of a drug case. While the officers claimed they announced their presence at the time of the raid, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, said they didn’t identify themselves that night.

The measure includes restrictions on when law enforcement officers can discharge tear gas, chemical weapons, use rubber bullets or deploy dogs.

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The measure also would form a body “to investigate officer misconduct and make disciplinary recommendations to the commission,” as well as a commission on the status of African Americans that will be tasked with making policy recommendations.

According to CNN, Baker hasn’t yet said whether he intends to sign off on the police reform, which comes as a number of states have passed similar legislation in recent months following nationwide demonstrations. 

“Until we have a chance to actually read the thing, which, I mean, we haven't even talked to our own lawyers about it yet, I'm not going to comment beyond that, but will just say that I'm glad that the Legislature moved forward on this,” the governor said in regard to the measure this week.

“I'm glad this is something that was part of what they considered to be important to get done before the end of the session, but I can't speak to the specifics of this until we have a chance to review it,” he added.