A proposal by a Massachusetts legislator that would punish police officers for swearing or using racial slurs while dealing with the public is drawing immediate criticism from law enforcement.
Under the bill proposed by Springfield Democrat Benjamin Swan, officers could even lose their jobs for using foul language. The bill, dubbed “An Act to prohibit inappropriate language use by sworn law officers,” is scheduled to be discussed in committee on Thursday.
Co-sponsor Paul Heroux told the Boston Herald police are public servants and it's unprofessional and "beneath the dignity" of officers to use bad language toward the people they represent. The Attleboro Democrat said the bill reinforces good police practice.
“These folks, they’re public servants. It’s unprofessional and beneath the dignity of any public servant to use that language toward the people they’re representing,” Heroux said. “I think this bill is reinforcing good police practice.”
The bill would also make using racial slurs or any type of "negative stereotyping" a punishable offense for officers, according to the report. Swan claims the "n-word" is commonly used by law enforcement.
Wayne Sampson, executive director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, said Swan's proposal amounted to "radical legislation" that is too broadly written.
“Certainly we can’t have them speaking proper English at all times while working with gangs,” Sampson told the Boston Herald. “We feel this is very aggressive remedy for a situation that may not be as severe as projected here.”
Everett Chief Steve Mazzie, president of Major City Chiefs, told the newspaper he's concerned that exemplary officers could be fired over one bad word.
Take a model officer, a 10-year veteran. One arrest and he drops an ‘F’ bomb. And we’re going to fire him? I think that’s over the top,” Mazzie said. "Police departments wouldn’t tolerate any of that behavior anyway. But I think it’s extremely difficult to legislate civility.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.