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Pennsylvania governor signs police reform bills requiring background checks and de-escalation training
© WikiMedia (Governor Tom Wolf)
Pennsylvania governor signs police reform bills requiring background checks and de-escalation training

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has signed two police reform bills into law calling for police reform and an end to systemic racism in law enforcement. The measures were framed in response to national outcry in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police.

House Bill 1841, will require prospective law enforcement candidates to undergo a background check and law enforcement agencies to disclose prior employment information. Additionally, if a law enforcement agency decides to hire a candidate who has past reports of using excessive force or filing a false report, among other violations, that agency will also be required to complete a hiring report justifying why that individual was hired.

House Bill 1910 will require mental health evaluations for officers who were involved in an incident involving lethal force. The bill will also require more training for officers emphasizing the proper use of deadly force as well as implementing new de-escalation and harm reduction techniques.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement that although the bills signed Tuesday were a step in the right direction, there is still significant work to be done in regards to police interactions with the Black community.

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 needed 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 will 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 does in Minneapolis, are as rare as they are unacceptable.

The modifications made by the new laws are already in effect and will soon be implemented in all Pennsylvania law enforcement agencies.