The tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the subsequent protests all over the United States have forced the entire nation to grapple with policies related to race and policing. In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf recently announced massive reforms that he would like the state's police departments to make, based on the reforms suggested by the 21st Century Policing Task Force, which was created in 2015 under the Obama administration.
Immediately, organizations that represent law enforcement officers in the state pushed back. The State Police Troopers Association responded to the governor's announcement saying that though what happened to George Floyd was “horrific and wrong” it wasn't fair to assume that Pennsylvania's troopers were no better than the officers charged in Floyd's death.
The Association continued, saying, “So, here is a message to the people of Pennsylvania: Troopers go to work every day knowing they may not return home to our loved ones. This is a sacrifice we accept because we have sworn an oath to uphold the laws of the commonwealth and the United States, without any consideration of class, color, creed, or condition. We live by this oath and are dedicated to protecting you, our fellow citizens, and the rule of law. And that will never change.”
Likewise, the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association President Larry Blackwell issued a statement saying that corrections officers are already subject to a strict disciplinary system.
“While the Governor moves forward in his attempts at policing reforms, we must remember the outstanding law enforcement officers throughout the commonwealth who risk their lives each day to keep Pennsylvania's families safe and, equally important, the victims of crime,” Blackwell's statement read.
Wolf said he is also directing all law enforcement academies across the state to review their training, especially for the use of force. Additionally, he will help all Pennsylvania municipalities to create citizens' police advisory boards, in addition to the state level one he is planning.
“We must rise to the challenge because too many people have lost faith in our public safety institutions and in our institutions in general, Wolf said. “We must double our efforts to earn the trust of everyone we serve.”
Some of Wolf's other recommendations include:
· Enhancing current mental health initiatives and mental health supports for officers to deal with trauma and reduce stigma for getting help.
· Creating a position for a Deputy Inspector General to work in the Pennsylvania Office of State Inspector General focused on deterring, detecting, preventing, and eradicating fraud, waste, misconduct, and abuse amongst law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania.
· Creating a Pennsylvania State Law Enforcement Advisory Commission that reviews allegations of misconduct by law enforcement personnel under the governor's jurisdiction.
· Creating a Racial and Ethnic Disparities Subcommittee under the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee.
· Working with the legislature to pass laws that improve access to police videos; create an oversight board for officer training and continuing education; appoint a special prosecutor in deadly force cases; and reform interdepartmental law enforcement hiring policies.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are determined to fight for your rights under the law. If you have been arrested and need representation, call our offices today at 888-535-3686.