Berkshire DA’s Office Statement on Policing Reform Bill
The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office supports the Legislative efforts to reform policing in Massachusetts but opposes the House of Representatives Police Reform Bill’s (H.4860) provision (Section 35) stripping authority to prosecute criminal conduct committed by police officers from local district attorneys.
District Attorney Andrea Harrington:
“I commend the Legislature in making bold reforms to policing in Massachusetts to combat institutional racism, enhance police training, increase transparency, and hold officers to a higher standard of accountability. These reforms will improve our communities and reflect the public’s growing demand for a re-imagined approach to public safety. I support these reforms but do not support a provision in the House bill stripping local district attorney’s offices of the authority to prosecute members of law enforcement for criminal conduct. As the local, elected district attorney, I am accountable to my community to ensure independent investigations and fair prosecutions. The Legislature shifting responsibility for violations of state criminal law by law enforcement to Boston diminishes the voice of Berkshire County residents in matters of grave public importance. My office has been and continues to work with local stakeholders to build the community’s trust in the justice system. We are doing so by developing and implementing best practices designed to ensure the fairness and integrity of criminal prosecutions. We specialize in prosecuting complex criminal cases, supporting victims of crime, and building a safer Berkshire County. We operate independently from individual Police Departments and objectively evaluate all investigations. Unlike the Attorney’s General’s Office, the State Police Detective Unit and prosecutors in the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office have the expertise that is vital and necessary to competently handle investigations and prosecutions of violent crime.
Across the nation, the federal government, led by U.S. Attorney General William Barr, repeatedly attempts to take authority away from local prosecutors, most frequently in jurisdictions led by reform-minded district attorneys. I urge the Massachusetts Legislature to be careful in their considerations to avoid following the same path and undermining the will of the voters in their quest to bring positive change to Massachusetts.”
Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington’s office serves all 32 cities and towns in Berkshire County. The office represents the Commonwealth in more than 7,500 criminal cases per year in Berkshire Superior Court, three district courts, three juvenile courts, Massachusetts Appeals Court, and Supreme Judicial Court. The office works closely with the State Police Detective Unit assigned to the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office, the Berkshire Law Enforcement Task Force, and collaborates with local police departments across the county. A dedicated staff of more than 50 prioritizes public safety, empowering victims and witnesses through services and support, and building a safe community for everyone and especially the most vulnerable.
(press release sent to WSBS from the Berkshire County District Attorney's Office for online and on-air use)