POSITIONS ON QUALIFIED IMMUNITY AND POLICING HIRING STAKED OUT:

 Reorganization Is Completed:  Hope For Return To Stonehill In The Fall

             The MAPLE Board of Directors, during a zoom meeting last Tuesday evening,   staked out positions regarding two very controversial issues.  The board called for a higher education requirement, a modification of the absolute veteran’s status and residency preference for police hiring, and supported the retention of MGL Chapter 258 Section 9, the state’s qualified immunity statute.

               Citing the need to ensure the “best possible” candidates. The board declared, that current police hiring practices, particularly those of state Civil Service, do not reflect that goal. The board unanimously approved a MAPLE white paper, produced by the Standards Committee, which recommended that all police candidates have a minimum of 60 college credits in fields of study approved by the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission. The complexity of police work, coupled with increasing evidence that college education tends to improve officer performance, justified the position.             

                The board also recommended the scaling back of absolute veteran’s preference, replacing it with a point system, similar to that utilized by federal civil service.  There is strong evidence that the current system excludes vast numbers of capable candidates.  Finally, the Board recommended jettisoning absolute residency preference, stating that it too has been an obstacle to hiring the most suitable candidates.  

            A white paper prepared by an Ad Hoc Committee examining “qualified immunity” was also reviewed, with mixed results.   The committee report provided an extended review of the history of qualified immunity, tracing it back to the reconstruction era following the Civil War.  42USC Section 1983 established a “strict liability” standard for any state official, who deprived any person of their constitutional rights.The “strict liability” standard was modified in 1967 by the US Supreme Court in Pearson vs Ray  and a good faith defense for false arrests, use of force and unproductive search warrants was established.  Further modifications followed but the doctrine is now under heavy scrutiny by police critics.  The board took the position that MGL Chapter 258 Section 9, the state’s qualified immunity law, should be retained.  T he board found that the law offered protection to officers, who act reasonably and are lawfully engaged in their duties, but such protections drop as soon as evidence of willful violation of the law is found.    The Board accepted the committee’s recommendation on a five to three vote ( three votes abstained).    Both the position on Qualified Immunity and Police Hiring will be up for discussion at the next general membership meeting for ratification.   Both white papers will be made available to the members very shortly.

          In other business, the Board completed it’s biannual reorganization by electing Ed Cronin as the Board’s Secretary.  During last spring’s election of officers, there was a tie for the fifth board of director’s position between Al Puller and Ed Cronin.  This would have created a sixth board member, which is not permitted by the bylaws.  Despite this, the general membership at the general meeting passed a resolution that directed the sixth person be seated on the board.    The Secretary’s position was vacant.  The position was offered to Ed Cronin and he accepted. The Board has the authority to elect any member to an open Board seat. His nomination was put forward and was accepted unanimously.

            Plans are being made to once again resume at least one general membership meeting a year at Stonehill college.  An ad hoc organizing committee to include President Galvin and Directors Rocheleau and Dennehy was established.   The committee will report back to the Board shortly on the feasibility of conducting the next general membership meeting at Stonehill college.  A tentative time frame was established, the meeting would be held between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

           MAPLE Treasurer Bill Rose was also pleased to report that the final bill for the cost of MAPLE ‘s incorporation has been paid off and there is a zero balance between MAPLE and the Liz Rheinhardt law firm. Approximately $3500 was paid to the firm over the course of the last two years.   

MAPLE PANELS APPEAR BEFORE LEGISLATIVE COMMISSIONS:

Testimony Offered On Qualified Immunity and Police Hiring             

The organization’s two major subcommittees were very busy over the past summer. The activity of both culminated in the production of two white papers and two appearances by panels comprised of MAPLE members before Legislative Commissions.  The Ad hoc committee on qualified immunity which consisted of members Pat Faiella, James Marr, Arthur McLaughlin, Joe Kittredge. Kathleen Dennehy and Dennis Galvin produced an extensive white paper on the history and policy implications of qualified immunity.  The committee found that the removal of immunity for good faith police errors would have a significant negative impact on public safety.  The committee found that without immunity, a drastic reduction in candidates for police positions could be expected.   The committee strongly recommended the retention of MGL Chapter 258 section 9, which offers protection for officers, who make good faith errors, but withdraws it for officers acting outside the scope of their duties or in bad faith.  In such cases they are held personally liable.  A MAPLE panel consisting of Pat Faiella,  Arthur McLaughlin and Dennis Galvin presented its findings to the Legislative Commission on Qualified Immunity, which is chaired by Senator Jamie Eldridge on August 18th.

           MAPLE’s Standards Committee, chaired by Marcel Beausoleil did yeomen’s work this summer.  The members include Ralph Mroz, Jim Martin, Anne Marie Rocheleau, Arthur McLaughlin and Marcel. They compiled significant research on best police hiring practices and crafted a series of recommendations, that included a 60 credit higher education course requirement for police candidates, prior to hire, and modifications to the absolute veteran’s preference standard and the residency preference standard in state Civil Service.   A MAPLE panel consisting of Anne Marie Rocheleau, Ed Denmark and Dennis Galvin appeared before the Legislative Commission on Police Hiring and Civil Service, chaired by Senator Michael Moore and offered those recommendations. That appearance occurred on September 28th.   The white paper will also be submitted.           

MAPLE was advised that the Legislative Commission on Qualified Immunity will be releasing their final report at the end of this year.  The Commission of Police Hiring will release its final report in either January or February of 2022. 

END 

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