Strategies For Reform

Police Union Leader Says Time Is Right For Joint Action

The second guest speaker at last Wednesday’s general meeting was John Nelson, the Vice President of the Massachusetts Coalition For Police, ( MassCOPS), one of the state’s largest police unions with close to 5K members. Nelson, a former Peabody police officer, discussed the political situation on Beacon Hill hinting that the climate has not been favorable to concerns related to the improvement of working conditions for police officers for quite some time. He expressed frustration over his efforts to educate legislators to the plight of police officers, only to find that his efforts very often fall on deaf ears. However, necessity often drives innovation and John Nelson is an innovator.

In order to attempt to break the Beacon Hill log jam on policing issues, Nelson drew upon his experiences watching the fire service promote its concerns. He noted that they always come forward in a unified front and this makes a difference as to how they are received by legislators. In comparison, Nelson noted, that the “police come to the hill fractured and splintered”, with Chiefs pitted against unions. Other special interest groups often going on their own to advance specific policies and programs. Nelson thought that forming a coalition of police interest groups, so that common goals might be identified and jointly pursued could make a difference.

He transformed his idea into a reality with the formation of the Massachusetts Law Enforcement Policy Group. Other unions such as the State Police Association of Massachusetts and the Boston Police Patrolman’s union joined with him. The Major City Chiefs expressed interest and the effort to build a united front on behalf of the police service moved forward. The first major test was SB2633 which sought to make available peer counseling for all officers involved in serious critical incidents, where there has been a loss of life or an officer has been severely injured. The bill gave police interests something they could rally around on Beacon Hill and they pushed it with great success. The bill passed. Nelson has two other initiatives that he would like replicated, a bill to allow officers injured as a result of confrontations with violent criminals to received 100% of their salary if they are forced to retire. They currently receive 72%; and a bill that would require de novo review by the superior court of all decertification’s imposed by the POST commission.

Nelson expressed his enthusiasm for MAPLE noting that retirees can be a powerful voice on Beacon Hill. This coupled with the research capabilities within MAPLE make the organization a very valuable asset for influencing legislators. He extended an invitation for MAPLE to consider joining the Policy Group.

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