Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Proposed PA statute makes it more serious to injure a police dog than a police officer

The tragic death of Officer John Wilding of the Scranton Police Department has resulted in proposed legislation to prosecute suspects who evade the police on foot.  In July 2015, Officer Wilding fell to his death while chasing three teenagers suspected of armed robbery.

The bill would create a new offense of “Evading Arrest or Detention by Foot.” When an individual flees from a police officers attempting to make a lawful arrest or detention, the suspect creates a risk of harm not just to police, but also a police K9 as well as innocent bystanders and themselves. 

Interestingly, the proposed law makes injuring a K9 a more serious crime than injuring a police officer. It is a Felony-2 to seriously injure a police dog and a Felony-3 to seriously injure a police officer.  It is a Felony-3 to merely injure a dog and a Misdemeanor-2 for injuring a man/woman.

According to the bills sponsor, a thorough review of our existing statutes demonstrated that we currently prohibit fleeing from an officer in a vehicle and struggling with an officer attempting to place an individual under lawful arrest; however, our statutes are silent with respect to fleeing an officer on foot and placing the officers or innocent bystanders at risk of injury.

The proposed law would create a separate offense for injuring a police animal while a person is evading arrest. Officer Wilding had been pursuing a position in the Scranton Police Department as a K9 officer and this change will further assist in the protection of the animals that serve our communities.

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