The events of the last 3 months have put a spotlight on how far we still need to go to have a truly fair and just society. A society where people are not prejudged, dismissed or disenfranchised because of the color of their skin. Systemic and entrenched racism has permeated this country from its inception. The whole world now knows the name of George Floyd who has become a symbol of our culture of violence and police brutality. We know his name, but there are many others. In our neighborhoods, in our streets, the voices are loud and clear that change has to happen. Elected officials have a crucial role to play in recognizing the problem and putting in place new policies and laws to protect the civil rights of all people. The role of the police must change as well. Their role must reflect all the people that they have a duty to serve. We must broaden the definition of public safety and security and make better use of public resources to ensure security for all. Fundamentally, it is not a heavily armed police officer that keeps us safe. It is the integrated fabric of our community that supports, nurtures us, and makes us whole. It is our neighbors with secure jobs, with a comfortable place to live and with health insurance they can afford. It is also our neighborhood schools, our libraries, our senior centers, our neighborhood organizations and clubs and our houses of worship that bring us together, look out for one another and keep our neighborhoods thriving, learning and inviting.
Over fifty years ago the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many others called for a “revolution of values” in America. They sought to build a broader movement that could unite us all and include our marginalized communities. I hear that call now. There is work that remains unfinished. I believe that as a Commonwealth we must build the political will to confront the chronic problems of an economy based on fossil fuels and the raw exploitation of both people and the environment. I’m tired of the underfunding of programs that support human needs. This requires that collectively we rethink our priorities. I for one would prioritize safe affordable housing, good quality health insurance and clean air and water rather than excessive spending on weapons of war and the militarization of our police.
I want to be clear that police reform and the Black Lives Matter Message are not mutually exclusive. I see how they complement each other and help make our law enforcement institutions stronger and more effective. Our Police officers in Waltham, Watertown and Newton are good people. Many have grown up in our communities and live in our neighborhoods. They are well-trained professionals that help people in times of great need and distress. They deserve our support.
The BLM message does not mean other lives don’t matter, of course they do. Every human life matters. The message of BLM calls out the inherent racism suffered every day by people of color and the significant increase in violence, arrest and incarceration that occurs in their interaction with law enforcement and the legal system. Black men and boys are killed by police at the rate 2 1/2 times the rate of white men and boys. It’s a shocking statistic and we need to recognize the important message of BLM is working to change that statistic.
On July 25th Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a sweeping police reform and accountability bill that would, among other provisions, certify all law enforcement officers in the state and curb the use of force tactics by police. My opponent voted against the Bill in its entirety. The bill was far from ideal but I believe that it would lead to progress. Rep. Lawn also voted “NO” on key amendments proposed to strengthen the bill. This included the use of tear gas and a restriction on “no-knock warrants” that required the police to ensure that minor children and adults over 65 are not in the home.
I would have voted very differently.