People are listening. Now’s the time to ‘Save Black Lives’

Rep. Liz Miranda

As a girl growing up in Roxbury and Dorchester, I never aspired to represent my community at the State House. Politicians didn’t look like me. They didn’t come from where I came from, and they sure as heck didn’t seem to put the needs of my family front and center.

I’ve spent my whole life here in Boston and I know what it’s like to feel at odds with the police. I know the sting of racism and I’ve seen how violence – at the hands of gangs, criminals, and the police – can break down families and communities.

When George Floyd was murdered on May 25, something changed. People in government are now listening. People who look like me are serving in government, and we can take this moment that has ripped apart our community and use it to come together to make changes that will ripple through Boston and beyond.

Now more than ever, I know that it is my responsibility to speak up for the residents of Dorchester and Roxbury when I walk through the State House doors. This moment has called us to re-examine what we believe true public safety should look like.

The police and other law enforcement officials have a duty to work for and with the people to earn and maintain the public trust. For too long, that trust has been breached by acts of violence and discrimination, but the incidents were brushed aside. We’re far past the stage where “a few bad apples” is an acceptable excuse for police misconduct. It is time for transformational, systemic reforms.

The pain of the last few weeks has been palpable.  I have listened to the voices in my community and reflected a lot. I’ve talked to my brothers and sisters in service, to my constituents in Boston, and to other advocacy leaders, and what I need to do is clear. 

It is time for me to take action in this moment. Last week I introduced legislation to change the way policing is done in Massachusetts so that we can lead the nation in ending police violence.  If we work together, we can make public safety truly safe for all members of the public.

My bill, “An Act to Save Black Lives by Transforming Public Safety,” takes a bold step toward making black and brown people safer. We are saying that it’s time to end dehumanizing police tactics that harm and kill black and brown people.  We must demilitarize our local police, demand accountability, and transform what we call public safety. This reformative legislation is a powerful step forward toward addressing the injustices within policing.

We know that black and brown communities across the Commonwealth experience unjust use of force abuses far too often. But no mother should fear the worst when her black son or daughter walks out of the door. This legislation will begin to shift the power of policing back to the community members who should decide what to protect and serve looks like.

Here’s what the bill does:

• Reforms the rules regarding appropriate use of physical force;

• Set sup new investigatory requirements within the attorney general’s office;

• Creates a “Duty to Intervene” when an officer witnesses abuse of force;

• Establishes that unnecessary use of force by an officer violates someone’s civil rights;

• Mandates data collection and reporting processes to prevent the hiring of abusive officers;

• Prohibits no-knock warrants;

• Prohibits the use of choke holds, tear gas, and other dangerous “less than lethal” weapons and tactics;

• Makes public the records of police misconduct investigations and outcomes.

After working on this bill with advocates, many of whom have been deeply engaged in police reform for years, I’m proud of the support we’ve picked up already. The bill is backed by the Boston NAACP, Citizens for Juvenile Justice, the ACLU of Massachusetts, the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, and more than 50 of my colleagues from across the state.

It’s time for action.

Liz Miranda is the Democratic state representative for the Fifth Suffolk district, which comprises parts of Dorchester and Roxbury.