Representative Paul K. Frost (R-Auburn) along with his colleagues Senator Michael Moore (D-Millbury), Representative Kate Campanale (R-Leicester) and Representative Timothy Whelan (R-Brewster) announced that they filed legislation on June 15, 2016 which will seek to make an assault and battery on a police officer a felony. Currently assault and battery on a police officer is a misdemeanor.
The motivation to file this legislation and push its passage became paramount when a known criminal who had two prior arrests for assaulting police officers took the life of Auburn Police Officer Ronald Tarentino, Jr. on the early morning hours of Sunday, May 22, 2016. Had the killer’s prior assaults on police officers been treated as felonies rather than misdemeanors, Officer Tarentino’s killer would likely not have been on the streets of Auburn or elsewhere that tragically fateful overnight.
Under Massachusetts General Laws there is already precedent for some cases of assault on firefighters to be considered a felony crime. There is no such provision protecting police officers currently.
Rep. Frost commented, “It is time we protect our men and women in blue. We should pass this legislation to make it a felony to assault and attempt to harm a police officer in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Our police are more and more becoming targets across our country and we need to stand up for them as they do for us. Auburn Police Chief Andrew Sluckis, Jr. in his remarks at the funeral services for Officer Tarentino said his death should not be in vain. Those comments moved me. Tarentino’s death should not be in vain and this legislation could stand to help save his fellow brothers and sisters in blue in the future.”
Frost went on to say, “The tragic and senseless death of Officer Tarentino in my own small hometown and on the very street I live on has truly shaken me and the entire community to the core. We owe it to Tarentino’s memory and to all those who serve and protect us day and night in our neighborhoods and on our local streets to do more to protect them and back them up against those with evil intent in their hearts.”
In his eulogy for Officer Tarentino, Chief Andrew Sluckis, Jr. stated, “We need come together to fix what is broken.” The lawmakers filing this legislation aim to do just that.
“I am proud to support this legislative provision to enhance protections for the men and women who serve in law enforcement,” said Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury), who serves as Senate Vice-Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. “Members of the law enforcement community are placed in harm’s way every day to help ensure public safety. This bill seeks to deter acts of violence committed against on-duty officers.”
“We owe it to our selfless officers, the men and women who put their lives on the line on a daily basis,” said Rep. Kate Campanale of Leicester, who serves as the State Representative of Officer Tarentino’s hometown. “I am proud to be a part of this commonsense, proactive bill. This legislation justly matches the punishment to the crime, while benefitting the safety of our officers.”
“As a retired State Trooper with 26 years of public safety experience, I know that our security relies on police officers to serve as that thin blue line between order and chaos. We have a responsibility to provide laws that protect those women and men behind the badge from being battered in the course of their duties, serving the public. I am proud to offer my full support to this legislation which makes a statement that those who would attack police officers deserve to be held accountable for their actions,” said Rep. Timothy Whelan (R-Brewster), a Worcester native who formerly served in the Worcester County region as a State Trooper and is also a former resident of Charlton.
The legislation will still accept other members of the State Legislature as co-sponsors of this bill. The Legislature could take up the bill before the session ends on Tuesday, January 3, 2017.