Just about a month ago, Governor Tom Wolf signed two new House bills into legislation: H.B. 1841 and H.B. 1910. These two bills follow on Governor Wolf's June announcement to begin the process of reforming Pennsylvania law enforcement through a variety of measures, including legislative reform. The two bills focus on conduct prior to employment with a law enforcement agency and ongoing evaluation during employment.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro stated: “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 day in Minneapolis, are as rare as they are unacceptable.” Both bills passed unanimously in the House and Senate. Let's take a look at each of them briefly.
House Bill 1841
Representative Harry Readshaw sponsored House Bill 1841, which amends Title 54 of the Pennsylvania statutes by adding in roughly 11 pages worth of text. The bill sets up several new procedures. Section 7309.a outlines “(1) The commission shall establish and maintain an electronic database containing the separation records. (2) The database shall be accessible to all law enforcement agencies in this Commonwealth” The Municipal Police Officers' Training and Education Training Commission will be responsible for maintaining this electronic database, which will house separation records for law enforcement officers.
House Bill 1841 also mandates a pre-hire background check for all law enforcement officers. According to section 7311, if an individual's separation records indicate that they separated due to: “(1)Final and binding disciplinary action based on any of the following:
(i) excessive force; (ii) harassment; (iii) theft; (iv) discrimination;
(v) sexual abuse; (vi) sexual misconduct; (vii) domestic violence; (viii) coercion of a false confession; (ix) filing a false report; or (x) a judicial finding of dishonesty. (2) A criminal conviction relating to conduct described in paragraph (1)” then a hiring report must be filed, describing the hiring agency's rationale and reasoning for hiring the individual.
House Bill 1910
Representative Dan Williams sponsored House Bill 1910, which amends Titles 43 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure), 44 (Law and Justice), and 53 (Municipalities) of the Pennsylvania Statutes. We're going to specifically take a look at the amendment regarding law enforcement officers, as that is the bulk of the bill.
Section 7203 specifies for mental health evaluations for law enforcement officers. It states, “(a) Evaluations.--As a condition of continued employment, and without cost to the law enforcement officer, a law enforcement agency shall provide a law enforcement officer with a mental health evaluation for post-traumatic stress disorder by a licensed mental health professional: (1) upon request of the law enforcement officer; (2) upon recommendation of a police chief or other supervising law enforcement officer; or (3) within 30 days of an incident of the use of lethal force during the course of law enforcement duties.” This inclusion indicates that the legislation is serious about curtailing PTSD in law enforcement officials.
The bill also increases training requirements for judges and law enforcement officials for mental health and child abuse identification and de-escalation techniques.
If you're concerned about potential misconduct impacting your ability to serve as a law enforcement official or the ramifications of the new bills, call the Lento Law Firm today at 1-888-535-3686 or contact us online.