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Gov. Baker Confronted Over Police Reform Bill During Visit To Former Boston State Hospital Site

Gov. Charlie Baker visited Mattapan on Tuesday to celebrate the selection of a minority-owned development firm that will build housing, child care and healthy food facilities on the site of the former Boston State Hospital, but was met with frustration from community members who took issue with an aspect of his policing reform package.

The visit to the Boston neighborhood with the highest percentage of Black residents was meant to be a celebration of the final phase of redevelopment on the former Boston State Hospital site, where Accordia Partners and other firms plan to use diverse construction, design and management teams to build housing, expand day care, and add community farming.

The governor, however, was quickly confronted by members of the audience over a provision in his policing reform bill filed last week that would make officers eligible for one-time bonuses of up to $5,000 if they receive additional training in de-escalation techniques, bias-free policing or narcotics.

"If you want people to up their game, if you want people to perform at a higher level, if you want people to do a better job in serving the communities they represent and to be leaders with respect to the way they do that, it's not unusual to create a modest incentive for them to do that," Baker said.

One man from Mattapan, who said he was part of the Black Boston COVID-19 coalition and goes by the name "Brother Lo," told Baker he had been unable to secure a meeting with him since April. "I have much respect for you, but right now I'm really feeling bad," said the man, who did not identify himself.

Baker apologized and said he would get in touch to set up a virtual meeting.

Rep. Russell Holmes, a Mattapan Democrat and member of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, tried to intervene on Baker's behalf, crediting the governor with putting forward a police licensing bill that can start the conversation on Beacon Hill.

"You issue, whatever it is with Charlie, isn't mine, alright? So please don't take over the press conference because of that," Holmes said.

This article was originally published on June 23, 2020.

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