DiSanto: Senate Approves Second Round of Policing Reform Bills

Harrisburg – The Pennsylvania Senate continued its work to improve police training and reduce deadly force incidents, approving a second round of reform legislation this week, according to Senator John DiSanto (Dauphin/Perry).

“When it comes to law enforcement, which is so critical to the safety and wellbeing of our communities, we need the best applicants and best training possible,” said DiSanto. “Not everyone has what it takes to wear the badge, and even those who do need ongoing training to deal with tense situations.”

The Senate unanimously approved the following bills on Tuesday:

  • House Bill 1841 requires a thorough background investigation on an applicant for employment as a law enforcement officer, including a review of the applicant’s employment information and separation records from prior law enforcement employment before the applicant may be employed. It also creates an electronic database of law enforcement officers who have demonstrated documented patterns of excessive use of force or other misconduct.
  • House Bill 1910requires police officers to receive training in de-escalation, use of force, harm reduction and reconciliation, and interacting with individuals of diverse backgrounds. It also provides for mental health evaluations, and child abuse awareness training for officers and magisterial district judges.
  • House Bill 256 makes it clear that any sexual contact between law enforcement and someone in their custody is illegal — there is never consent for sex.

House Bill 1841 and House Bill 1910 will be sent to the Governor’s Office for enactment. House Bill 256 returns to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Last week, the Senate approved Senate Bill 459, which provides law enforcement agencies with record keeping and reporting requirements regarding the use of force and deadly force by law enforcement officers. It also requires a statewide report to be compiled annually on use-of-force incidents.

The Senate also approved Senate Bill1205, which prohibits the use of chokeholds except in situations when the use of deadly force is permitted. A chokehold is defined as “a physical maneuver that restricts an individual’s ability to breathe for the purposes of incapacitation.”

The bill also requires law enforcement agencies to adopt a use of force policy and to train officers on procedures allowed under the policy. The Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission will be required to certify the adoption of the use of force policies and to report to the Pennsylvania State Police which departments have and have not adopted these policies.

The legislative action followed two days of public hearings held earlier this month on ensuring accountability and equality in law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

“These changes are intended to avert tragedies and build trust between communities and the police officers whose job is to protect and serve them,” DiSanto said.

CONTACT: Chuck Erdman cerdman@pasen.gov (717) 787-6801