Most cops to be re-certified despite lawsuit against monitoring commission

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The state’s new Police Monitoring Commission is re-certifying the first batch of officers under the 2020 law.

About 71% of officers in Massachusetts have all the information they need to be submitted by the state’s new Police Inspection Commission. Craig F. Walker / Globe Staff

The state’s new Police Inspection Commission, created with the goal of improving policing standards, will process the first batch of Massachusetts police officers for recertification.

But the commission, called the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission (POST Commission), has faced several obstacles during its first year of duty.

Despite the June 15 deadline for submitting re-certification materials, the State House News Service (SHNS) reported that as of the beginning of the month, only 172 or 40% of the 439 agencies under the commission’s purview even interacted with the online portal. where they have to deposit the material.

Now, as the July 1 deadline for police officer recertification nears, about 88% of police departments in Massachusetts have submitted all required information to the commission, SHNS reported Tuesday.

Additionally, about 85% of those officers, including only officers with last names starting with A to H, will be re-certified by the commission, the SHNS reported.

But as the recertification process continues, some police organizations and associations are still critical of the way the commission goes about its duties.

In April, those police organizations filed a lawsuit against the commission, and some unions have asked their members not to complete the parts of the certification process they object to, which complicates their re-certification. Is.

Last week, several police organizations sought an injunction against filling out recertification questionnaires, which include questions about whether officers have been prosecuted or disciplined for taking violent actions.

Police organizations have called the questionnaire “overly offensive, unfair, unfair and irrational”.

The outcome of the trial and questionnaire is yet to be decided.

where the commission is in process

The POST commission was created in late 2020 as part of a criminal justice reform bill passed by the Massachusetts Legislature in the wake of the killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd by police. It is tasked with re-certifying police officers every three years, and can certify them as well.

SHNS reported that as of Tuesday, 387 out of 439 law enforcement agencies under the commission’s purview had completed the process. This information includes 6,127 officers, which is about 71% of the officers who need to be re-certified at this time.

The SHNS reported that around 2,200 officers, or 25% of the officers who need to be re-certified, belong to departments that have been given a 30-day extension to submit all required information. These departments comprise the two largest divisions in the state – the Massachusetts State Police and the Greeley Tribune Police.

Enrique Zuniga, executive director of the POST Commission, told SHNS on Tuesday that the biggest reason these departments filed for expansion was that they needed more time to complete the comprehensive process.

SHNS informed that there are other 27 agencies which have not submitted re-certification information and have not asked for extension. Zuniga told the news service that these divisions are too small and may not contain any officers whose surnames end in A to H.

How many officers will be re-certified?

SHNS reported that of the 6,127 officers the POST commission has all the necessary information, 5,205 officers, or 85%, have to be re-certified without exception.

Another 645 officers, or 11%, are ready to be re-certified conditionally, SHNS reported. This means they will need to receive some sort of additional training, such as CPR certification, within 90 days.

The news service reported that an uninformed number of 645 officers to be conditionally recertified would fall into that category because their recertification questionnaire was either incomplete or completed, but “with exceptions”. was marked as

In some cases, the SHNS reported that the officer was on leave when the questionnaire was to be completed via interview, but in others, the questionnaire was not completed due to “concern of association” with the questionnaire.

“I don’t know any more details other than ‘the concern of the union,’ but this is a direct quote from the explanation he gave,” Zuniga said. “Whatever the concern, our position is and will be that they have to conduct that questionnaire and they will have 90 days to do that.”

Zuniga told the POST commission that “at this point, no one will be in the non-certified category,” but added that the applications of 69 officers “deserved further review,” SHNS reported.

Police issues with commission and re-certification process

The presidents of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police, the Greeley Tribune Police Superior Officers Federation and the Greeley Tribune Police Detectives Benevolent Society, which filed suit against the POST commission, issued a statement Tuesday against the commission.

In the statement, the presidents accused the commission of “relentlessly disregarding” its duties and violating state open meeting laws and reducing transparency and public input by secretly making important decisions.

The presidents highlighted that the commission is tasked with determining whether police officers have “good moral character and fitness for employment”.

“There is perhaps no more fundamental issue to the validity of the POST Commission than the development of a clear definition of this standard and its continued application,” he wrote in his statement.

Instead, he says, the commission had more than 400 police departments separate and independently evaluate their officers without the commission’s guidance.

The passing of this money has likely resulted in many different definitions of ‘good moral character and fitness for employment,’ the presidents wrote.

After several inquiries and their trial, the presidents say, the commission finally defined what the phrase meant on June 8, 2021 — a week before the commission re-certified information.

Chairs say that the POST commission eventually adopted the language from the International Association of Chiefs of Police Code of Ethics as part of the standard, which includes the phrase “to dedicate myself before God to the profession of my chosen one”.

“The adoption of explicitly religious language as part of the Post Commission’s ethical guidelines is inconsistent with the principles of sound policing practices, and potentially violates the right of every officer – and every American – to control their employment.” should be free from rules and regulations containing religious prejudices,” the president wrote.

Police issue with re-certification questionnaire

In his statement, the President also claims that at least four Commission recertification questions Violates the constitutional rights or other legal protections of officials if they are required to respond as a condition of certification.

The eight-question-long questionnaire asks:

  1. Are officers present on all tax payments
  2. Do they have a firearm license and has it ever been revoked
  3. Have they ever been a defendant in a civil suit alleging that they committed violent or abusive acts, or used excessive force?
  4. whether they have ever been the subject of a restraining order or have been found to have violated a
  5. have they been suspended for more than five days
  6. Have they made social media posts in the last five years that may lead people to think they are biased against a minority
  7. have been members of a group that unlawfully discriminates against minorities, at any point in their lives
  8. Is there any other information relevant to the previous questions they believe should be mentioned.

“Questions inappropriately include requests for free speech and free expression, religious affiliation and religious belief, personal and personal financial information, and highly vague and undefined personal assessments. They also violate the core privacy interests of law enforcement officers.” ,” the president wrote.

As a result, he said, he and other organizations filed for a preliminary injunction against the commission and the recertification process in Suffolk Superior Court on June 17. The matter was taken up under advice.

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