The Libertarian Party is always and forever against the many forms of oppression and disenfranchisement used against groups and individuals. As a result, one of our core positions is opposition to the War on Drugs and the ever expanding government overreach justified by it. The Libertarian Party of Massachusetts acknowledges that the repeated cycle of violence and oppression experienced by people of color in America is an especially prevalent example of government abuse. The protests of 2020 have shone a spot light onto some of the most egregious abuses of government power - related to the war on drugs and otherwise. This has led to a broader demand for police reform and law-enforcement accountability such as the push to end qualified immunity in its current form shielding police officers from personal responsibility for sometimes atrocious rights-violations.
Massachusetts has even passed a broad police reform bill. The Massachusetts bill includes some laudable measures such as for example de-escalation training and professional standards with independent oversight, limits to use of force and no-knock warrants, and minor limits on qualified immunity. Responsible police departments across the Commonwealth, however, have long been applying similar measures and the vast majority of police officers in Massachusetts already exceed the standards set by this bill. The new regulation also appears to increase the level of centralized control, which bears its own risk of overreach and the kind of bureaucratic unaccountability that is plaguing our government at every level. What we need is local decisions and local civilian oversight. The bill fails to address some of the key issues: it limits no-knock raids but does not abandon them, nor does it in any meaningful way address the war on drugs, and on the central question of qualified immunity it does not go beyond jet another 'commission' to kick the issue down the road. It simply does not go far enough.
Maybe the most important problem with the bill though is the refusal of the legislature to acknowledge that the issues are not with individual 'bad apples' among the police officers that need to be reigned in. It is the structure of our criminal justice system itself and the laws created by the legislatures - at both the state and federal level - as well as the seemingly endless list of regulations delegated to the executive, that are the problem. Abuse does not start with a police officer using excessive force, it starts with a militarized law-enforcement machine sent to persecute citizens for non-violent, victimless crimes, such as drug offenses.
It is time to stop scapegoating the police and realize that it is the laws they are tasked to enforce and the methods they are told to use that are the problem. We need to end the government's attempts to control what people put in their bodies, decriminalize or legalize drugs (without prohibitive taxation), and end the War on Drugs that has lead to mass incarceration and violence, but has utterly failed to address the problem it is supposed to correct.
It is refreshing to see John Oliver make many of these Libertarian points when he demands to stop doing drug raids. That would be a good next step for Massachusetts.