Tuesday, August 4, 2020

PA Gov. Wolf signs two police reform bills into law

Gov. Wolf signed two police reform bills, one requiring police officers to disclose their employment history and the other requiring officers to undergo regular mental health evaluations and training.
The passage of these bills marked the first legislative action taken after the George Floyd protests at the capital, reported the Harrisburg Patriot.
“We have made progress in six weeks, but we are far, far from the finish line,” Wolf said. “My executive order and the bills I’m going to sign in the next few minutes are still not enough to halt the systemic racism and oppression that exists throughout our commonwealth.”
Attorney General Josh Shapiro, State Police Lt. Col. Christopher Harris, and state Reps. Dan Williams and Christopher Rabb also spoke at the signing.
“Today, Pennsylvania becomes one of the only states in our country to change our laws in the wake of George Floyd’s murder,” Shapiro said. “When the governor signs his name, that will be a downpayment on the types of reforms we need to deliver on here in Pennsylvania.”
Here’s what we know about each of the bills that passed:
House Bill 1841 will require police agencies to do thorough background checks of any new hires through a statewide database that holds information on disciplinary actions and separation records of all police officers in the state.
Before the passing of this bill, there was no standardized way for police departments to share misconduct records or disciplinary actions with other law enforcement agencies. That meant a police department hiring an officer had no way of knowing if that officer had a history of, for example, of being disciplined for excessive use-of-force.
House Bill 1910 will require enhanced training for police officers on how to treat people of diverse racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds. It also requires officers to take a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder test every two years, or within 30 days of a lethal use-of-force.
The bill also requires implicit bias training and annual training on appropriate use-of-force.
Police organizations across the state have voiced their support for these reforms, including the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association.
“Systemic racism is a complex issue, and it has existed for centuries, and in so many ways, it’s ingrained in our society,” Wolf said.
Two other police reform bills are headed to the state House for action. Senate Bill 459 would require all police departments to report any use-of-force incidents to the state police. The state police would then be required to present annual use-of-force reports to the attorney general. It’s uncertain if these reports will be made public.
Senate Bill 1205 would require police departments to publish their use of force policies and limits the use of chokeholds to instances where deadly force is needed.
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