An open letter to State Legislatures (MA only)

REJECT GOV BAKER'S AMENDMENTS TO POLICE REFORM BILL

82 so far! Let’s get to 100 signers!

I am writing today, as a concerned constituent, to urge you to reject Governor Baker's amendments to the Police Reform Bill (S.2963) and pass the original policing bill approved by the legislature. I am joining Black Boston, a community organization founded in response to the same concerns that prompted the creation of this bill, to urge you to consider the following: In the past six months, we have seen immense growth in the movement for racial justice. Massachusetts has the chance to build on this momentum, enact real change, and lead the charge in holding police accountable and supporting communities of color. Governor Baker, in weakening this bill with his proposed amendments, is standing in the way of this necessary change. Reject these proposed amendments, and vote to protect your constituents! Governor Baker's amendments would severely weaken core racial justice provisions like regulations on face recognition technology-a dangerous, unregulated, and racially biased form of surveillance. One of the measures Governor Baker seeks to change in Bill S.2963 is the issue of limiting use of facial recognition technology. Currently, the bill bars any public agency from using facial recognition technology — except for the Registry of Motor Vehicles. However, Black Boston thinks it is important that we remind legislatures that this technology is not perfect. Research conducted by Black scholars Joy Buolamwini, Deb Raji, and Timnit Gebru has shown that it is racially biased. Buolamwini and Gebru’s 2018 research concluded that some facial analysis algorithms misclassified Black women nearly 35 percent of the time, while nearly always getting it right for white men. A subsequent study by Buolamwini and Raji at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology confirmed these problems persisted with Amazon’s software. [ACLU.org] We believe that the legislation should be kept as it is, to limit the use of facial recognition technology to the RMV with the exception (as currently written) that Police can request, in writing, the Registry run a search in cases of an emergency (such as a terrorist attack) or to execute a search warrant in cases of violent felonies. Another measure Governor Baker seeks to remove is civilian oversight in Police Training. Baker instead is pushing to keep it within the state’s Municipal Police Training Committee, which is currently responsible for training local police and sits under Baker’s executive office of public safety. Civilian oversight is why we know of so many instances of police misconduct, and it plays a crucial role in holding offenders accountable. In the interest of racial justice and public safety, please reject Gov. Baker's amendments to this bill and pass the language agreed to in conference and previously approved by both chambers.

First sent on December 16, 2020 by Black Boston

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