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Bill to require police certification; MIT chaplain resigns

June 17, 2020 GMT

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Police officers in Massachusetts would have to be certified by the state under a bill filed Wednesday by Gov. Charlie Baker.

The bill would also allow for the decertification of officers who engage in excessive force and encourage additional training including for advanced deescalation techniques.

Massachusetts is one of only a few states without a statewide certification program for law enforcement. The Republican said the administration worked with members of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus and public safety officials to draft the bill.

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“The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police officers made clear that now is the time to get this done,” Baker said during a Statehouse press conference. “Improving law enforcement is only one piece of this process.”

The bill has several parts, Baker said.

It would create a certification program for law enforcement officers that must be renewed every three years. Baker said that’s in line with how the state regulates other professionals like doctors and teachers.

The bill would also create a database of certified officers, ensuring those officers’ training and conduct records are available to their employers. The public would have access to some of that information, including an officer’s certification status.

Baker said the legislation would also create a process to decertify police. Officers who have been found to use a chokehold or other form of excessive force would be automatically decertified as would officers who fail to intervene if they see another officer using excessive force.

The bill would also create incentives for police to pursue advanced training -- including de-escalation techniques, community collaboration, bias training and domestic violence and sexual assault response.

The bill will help empower the public, according to Rep. Russell Holmes, a member of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus.

The Boston Democrat said he’s tired of hearing from constituents who say they were unable to get information about a police officer. The day is coming when individuals will be able to look up an officer’s certification on their cellphone, he said.

“So while they’re back there in that car sitting there, chilling, making me wait because they want me to be penalized for speeding or whatever it may be, I will make sure I understand that person as well,” Russell said envisioning a traffic stop.

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“That is the standard that we are looking for,” he added. “You are no longer hidden from us. You are not a person who I cannot investigate on my own.”

Baker urged lawmakers to get a bill to his desk before the end of the Legislature’s formal session on July 31.

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PRIEST-FLOYD EMAIL

A Roman Catholic chaplain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has resigned at the request of the archdiocese after sending an email suggesting that the killing of George Floyd was not an act of racism and saying that Floyd “had not lived a virtuous life.”

The Archdiocese of Boston asked the Rev. Daniel Patrick Moloney to step down June 9 after he sent the message to Catholics at MIT, The Boston Globe reports. A statement from the archdiocese said Moloney’s comments “were wrong and by his resignation he accepts the hurt they have caused.”

In his email, Moloney questioned whether Floyd’s death should be framed as an act of racism.

“I don’t think we know that,” Moloney said. “Many people have claimed that racism is a major problem in police forces. I don’t think we know that.” He noted that Floyd should not have been killed but “had not lived a virtuous life.”

The archdiocese learned about the email from Catholics at MIT and alumni.

Moloney on Tuesday said he was trying to speak out against “cancel culture” and regrets that his message has been misunderstood. He said he “didn’t want to hurt anybody.”

Suzy Nelson, an MIT vice president and dean for student life, sent an email to students calling Moloney’s comments “deeply disturbing.”

“By devaluing and disparaging George Floyd’s character, Father Moloney’s message failed to acknowledge the dignity of each human being and the devastating impact of systemic racism,” Nelson wrote.

MIT has more than 20 chaplains for different faiths and belief systems; Moloney was the prestigious school’s Catholic chaplain since 2015. Chaplains provide religious and spiritual programming, along with counseling and crisis support.