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PA Senate Democratic Caucus announces plans to introduce comprehensive police reform package

“We have to end racism that permeates our culture, and we have to reform our system of policing,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, Jr.
Pennsylvania State Capitol (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Members of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus announced Wednesday their plans for a comprehensive police reform legislative package.

The caucus said it first introduced police and community relations reform bills two years ago in the wake of the death of Antwon Rose, a 17-year-old African-American teen who was shot to death by an East Pittsburgh Police officer. Those bills did not move, the caucus said.

"George Floyd’s murder, caught on tape, has awakened national attention and brought to light systemic racism in our criminal justice institutions," the caucus said in a statement announcing the reform package.

In the past year, 1,042 people have been shot and killed by police, and the rate of black Americans killed by police is more than twice as high as the rate for white Americans, according to caucus members.

“We have to end racism that permeates our culture, and we have to reform our system of policing,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, Jr. said. “For the past two years, I have been trying to reform this system, but my legislation stalled. We cannot let that happen again. The Pennsylvania Senate Democrats have expanded our package of bills to include critical reforms and we must pass them this session.”

The bills to be introduced by the Senate Democratic Caucus will:

  • Improve Municipal Police Officer Education and Training
  • Institute “8 Can’t Wait” to ban deadly police practices
  • Appoint a special prosecutor for cases of officer involved shootings
  • Require civilian review boards and provide grants and technical assistance to improve their performance
  • Ban chokeholds
  • Improve police pay
  • Improve standards for the use of deadly force
  • Demilitarize law enforcement
  • Fund a regional policing incentive program and study
  • Ban consent while in custody
  • Create a professional oversight and policy development board for police officers
  • Enhance civil asset forfeiture protections
  • Penalize false reports of “criminal activity” based on race or ethnicity

Details on each of those proposals are available here.

The caucus said the Senate is expected to review several police reform measures in its Judiciary and Law & Justice Committees in hearings and voting meetings during the month of June.