HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — Calling them ‘new laws that make progress in keeping every Pennsylvanian safe,’ Governor Tom Wolf Tuesday signed House bills 1841 and 1910, which both passed unanimously in the House and Senate.
The bills are the first two pieces of legislation from the governor’s comprehensive police reform executive actions announced in early June in the wake of the death of George Floyd when in Minneapolis police custody and subsequent protests in Pennsylvania and across the country.
A little over a month ago I met with leaders of Black communities in Philadelphia and Harrisburg to discuss ways we can improve law enforcement to make our commonwealth safer for every Pennsylvanian. Today, I am signing two bills that will take steps toward achieving this goal.Governor Tom Wolf
Gov. Wolf was joined at the bill signing at the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) by Attorney General Josh Shapiro, members of the legislature and the Pennsylvania State Police, and Keir Bradford-Grey of the Defender Association of Philadelphia.
PCCD Executive Director Mike Pennington welcomed the governor and provided an overview of the commission’s role in police reform.
As an agency, we answered the call the governor made last month to address reform. We’ve created a Racial and Ethnic Disparities Subcommittee under the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee here at PCCD. Keir Bradford-Grey of the Defender Association of Philadelphia will serve as our chair, and we look to have that subcommittee formed and convened within the next month or so.PCCD Executive Director Mike Pennington
I commend Governor Wolf and the General Assembly for establishing a mandatory, statewide database of police misconduct, a key change sought by reform advocates and a down payment on the improvements we still need to make. Today, Pennsylvania becomes one of the only states in the country to change its laws in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing.
I heard the community in October, and worked to bring a breakthrough coalition of law enforcement leaders forward to get this done. This legislation would make all Pennsylvanians safer by preventing departments from unknowingly hiring officers with past records of misconduct, and it shows we can make meaningful improvements in our criminal justice system.
We won’t stop pushing for change until inappropriate police-community interactions, like what we saw that day in Minneapolis, are as rare as they are unacceptable.Attorney General Josh Shapiro
The governor signed at the event:
House Bill 1841, sponsored by Rep. Harry Readshaw, which requires a thorough background check for law enforcement applicants prior to being employed and requires a law enforcement agency to disclose employment information. The bill also establishes an electronic database housed and maintained by the Municipal Police Officers’ Training and Education Training Commission (MPOTEC) that contains separation records of law enforcement officers.
A hiring report that indicates the prospective law enforcement agency’s reason and rationale must be completed if a hiring law enforcement agency hires an individual whose separation record includes any of the following:
- Excessive force
- Sexual abuse or misconduct
- Domestic violence
- Coercion of a false confession
- Filing a false report
- A judicial finding of dishonesty
House Bill 1910, sponsored by Rep. Dan Williams, which requires mental health evaluations with a focus on PTSD of law enforcement officers as a condition of continued employment. The evaluation may be upon request of a law enforcement officer or a police chief or within 30 days of an incident of the use of lethal force.
The bill also requires training for police officers on trauma-informed care, use of deadly force, de-escalation and harm reduction techniques, community and cultural awareness, implicit bias, procedural justice and reconciliation techniques. Under the bill, magisterial district judges are required to complete, as part of their annual continuing education requirement, one course on the identification and reporting of suspected child abuse and court proceedings involving children.