City Council backs push for state laws to ‘transform’ ways, means of public safety

The 13 members of the City Council unanimously passed a resolution last Wednesday in support of state legislation aimed at removing tear gas, rubber bullets, attack dogs and other weapons “not even used in war” from state and local police department arsenals.

The legislation, H.D. 5128/SD. 2968 – “Acts Relative to Saving Black Lives and Transforming Public Safety” – was authored by Rep. Liz Miranda— who represents Dorchester and Roxbury— and state Sen. Cynthia Creem of Newton. 

District 9 Councillor Liz Braedon and District 4 Councillor Andrea Campbell offered the resolution. 

“I’m optimistic because in the pursuit of protecting lives and dismantling systems of oppression that have existed for hundreds of years, we are putting in place measures for police accountability,” said Braedon. “This act, put forward by our colleagues at the State House, could very well help in that fight.” 

She noted that as a native of Northern Ireland, she had experienced first-hand the “anguish and upheaval caused by a militarized police force” during a “prolonged sectarian conflict.” The resolution supports the removal of weapons that Braedon said are “not even used in war,” including tear gas, rubber bullets, and attack dogs.

The state law, if adopted, would also require officers to attempt de-escalation and exhaust all alternatives before using or increasing force.

Braedon noted that the legislation would mandate an “affirmative duty to intervene” if officers observe a colleague using excessive force. 

“I want to thank Councillor Braedon for your leadership, compassion and empathy,” said Campbell, who said she often thinks of the case of Breonna Taylor, who was shot dead during a police raid at her Louisville home in May. The case, Campbell said, “was hidden for weeks. Her mother could not locate her immediately and was not immediately told she was killed.” 

Campbell added: “While most of these high-profile cases have happened in other parts of the country, we know, of course, that Boston and the Commonwealth aren’t immune. The very racial bias and prejudices that operate in other parts of the country exist here as well,” said Campbell. “This is an opportunity to work at all levels of government to push reform. I’m really honored to support our state colleagues who have been doing this work for a long time.”