Why Police Professionalization Is So Desperately Needed
My name is Heather Bish, and my sister Molly was abducted and murdered in Massachusetts in 2000. Due to local police negligence and lack of knowledge, Molly was not reported missing to us for three hours, further, the crime scene was never preserved. Therefore, Molly’s case remains unresolved.
I am reaching out in regard to “An Act To Improve Police Officer Standards and Accountability and To Improve Training.” I would like to respectfully request, that part of this bill include training for missing children. Currently, Massachusetts has no municipal training for police officers to respond to cases involving missing children. This is important to me because of what happened to Molly. And, since that day 20 years ago, my life has revolved around helping the Mass State Police find a child murderer. Molly was only sixteen, and on her 8th day of work. She was an honor roll student, who played three sports, and was the daughter of a probation officer and teacher.
Unfortunately, when Molly was reported missing to the local police, they did not react for three hours. This was because of bias. Bias does not just exist with skin color. The officer on duty assumed, that she “took off with her friends”, even though her shoes were left behind. Because of further local police bias, when small groups began to gather to search for her, an officer stated: “she’s probably just tripping in the woods”, indicating that he thought she was doing drugs instead of doing her job. I may never understand why these officers made these assumptions, but over the years, I have learned that many of us carry these biases, and these can have lethal results.
My father John Bish Sr. would travel the Commonwealth, after Molly disappeared, encouraging law enforcement to “over react” to missing person cases. He believed that law enforcement should use all resources and tools available to find missing children. We know now that rapid response makes a critical difference in recovering a missing child. Using resources like Amber Alert, and even a simple photo, has a 1 in 6 chance of recovering a child. In order to ensure rapid response, law enforcement needs to have training and systems in place to use these mechanisms. We can never let our guard down when it comes to protecting our children.
So I ask you, as we move towards the 20th anniversary of my sister’s loss, that you consider adding provisions to this bill to ensure that all of our citizens, of any color or age, are protected. My father used to say “ hope requires perseverance, even against overwhelming odds” and this is my hope.
(Editor’s Note: This letter was submitted to MAPLE from Heather Bish and is reprinted here with her permission and best wishes for what we are trying to accomplish. Bias is a child of ignorance, education and training are the cure.)
MEMBER ROUND TABLES PLANNED
In our effort to “adapt, improvise and overcome” to the many challenges presented by COVID 19, or as some say COVID 1984, we plan to conduct a series of tele-conferences with you, our members. Because of this pandemic, our capacity to get together has been seriously impeded. However, where there is a will there is way. We will begin these teleconferences in September and will approach them regionally. Hopefully it will lead to regional meetings, where we can get together and discuss the challenges facing policing today. It is very important that we get to know one another and develop a team approach to addressing some of the significant problems, that our society and policing are facing today. So please watch your emails beginning next month for opportunities to get together electronically to share ideas and discuss the pressing issues that face policing today.
RESPONSE FROM SENATOR BRUCE TARR: MAPLE LEGAL REVIEW
Thankyou for writing to share your perspective on H4886, “An Act relative to justice, equity and accountability in law enforcement in this Commonwealth,” and S2820, “An Act to reform police standards and shift resources to build a more equitable, fair and just commonwealth that values black lives and communities of color,” as the Committee on Conference considers the reconciliation of the bills, I appreciate as a member of the committee, the information you have provided, and will carefully consider it in deliberating the substance of these bills.
I continue to believe that it is possible for the committee to develop from these bills a piece of compromise legislation, that simultaneously provides accountability, oversight and racial justice in law enforcement, while enabling those charged with the responsibility of protecting our safety to do so effectively. Throughout the operations of the conference committee I will continue to pursue these provisions.
Thank you once again for providing information to the conference committee, and please do not hesitate to continue to do so. Such information is an important component of an informed, reasoned and comprehensive legislative process.
(Editor’s Note: Senator Bruce Tarr is one of six members appointed to the conference committee assigned to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the police reform bill. He is the Senate Minority leader and is a Republican from Gloucester. Other members of the committee include Senator Sonya Chang Dias, who also acknowledged our work, Senator William Brownsberger, Representative Timothy Whalen (retired MSP), Representative Michael Rodriguez and Representative Claire Cronin.)
WELCOME NEW MEMBERS:
MAPLE is pleased to announced several new members who have joined over the summer. They are accomplished individuals who have made significant contributions toward professionalizing law enforcement. We are grateful to have them on board”
Brian OHARA: Detective Lieutenant (MSP retired), prominent fingerprint and crime scene examiner.
Richard GRIFFIN: Retired Member Waltham Police Department, former Police Union President and former Director of Security for The Mass State Lottery
Edward CRONIN: Former Chief of Police, Gardner and Fitchburg and Criminal Justice Educator
James MARTIN: Retired Staff Sergeant (MSP), former Chief of Police Narragansett, RI