Small, rural towns need seat at police reform table
Gov. Baker asked the Massachusetts Legislature to amend an expansive police reform bill last week, citing the bill’s ban on facial recognition technology. Despite his refusal to sign the bill in its current form, Gov. Baker agrees with legislators on many other measures, such as new training standards. The Bay State’s efforts to restore public trust in police are commendable, but state officials left out a crucial component: rural police departments.
While the debate over facial recognition technology rages in Boston, towns in Western Massachusetts are struggling to pay for new brakes in police cruisers. Higher training standards are a step in the right direction, but small departments often don’t have enough officers to cover shifts while other officers are in class. And at the core of this disconnect, urban activists and journalists characterize police departments as structurally broken and officers as occupying militants, whereas small town residents tend to see police officers as friends and neighbors.