Following the recent killings of two police officers in Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker unveiled a new proposal aimed at keeping dangerous criminals behind bars.
During a press conference Thursday, Baker formally introduced "An Act to Protect the Commonwealth from Dangerous Criminals." It calls for comprehensive reforms to how the state determines whether a person should receive a dangerousness hearing before they are released.
"We clearly have some gaps we need to deal with," said Baker. "There are real opportunities here, I would argue, to do some things that are important to dealing with dangerousness."
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The proposed changes to current law would include expanding the list of offenses that can be considered by a judge as ground for a hearing, as well as including a defendant's history of serious criminal convictions in that process. Currently, the latter is not allowed.
"It is responsive government," said Yarmouth Police Chief Frank Frederickson.
In April, one of Frederickson's officers, Sgt. Sean Gannon, was shot and killed while serving a warrant. His death marked three officers killed in roughly two years, including the murders of Auburn Police officer Ron Tarentino and Weymouth Police Sgt. Michael Chesna. In Gannon's case, his alleged killer had a lengthy criminal history, which included more than 100 charges over the course of his life.
"With this current system we are working under, was that fair to the Tarentino family? Was it fair to the Gannon family? Was it fair to the Chesna family?" asked Frederickson.
Over the last few months, the Baker administration has been meeting with police and prosecutors around the state to find out what has not been working under the current system. Based on those discussions, Baker said they came up with a proposal that they felt would better serve public safety, while still protecting those who are innocent.
"The alarming frequency of these events confirms that the Commonwealth needs to do a better job of holding until trial defendants who pose a continuing danger to others," said Baker.
While it remains unclear how the legislature will respond to the plan, Baker said he would welcome public hearings and debate on the issue.