Pennsylvania

What to do here

Click a "Get Template" button to get an email template about a specific issue. Edit the template to connect on a more personal level with your lawmaker. See the Contacting Logistics page for information about how to write an effective email to your lawmakers. Get your lawmakers' emails with the search box to the right. Send the email!

Be sure to check out the Next Steps at the bottom of the page. Go to the References/Further Reading page to see our sources and do some research of your own.

Last updated March 5, 2020

Summary

Key:

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Legislation Achieved

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Some Progress

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No Progress

Demilitarization

Learn about demilitarization and the specific issues below on the Demilitarization page (opens in a new window).

 

No knock warrants

No Progress:

Pennsylvania has not yet enacted a law eliminating the use of no-knock warrants. PA law still allows for exceptions to 'knock and announce' requirements based on 'a reason to believe that evidence is about to be destroyed' or that 'an announcement prior to entry would impair their safety'. SB 1271, introduced in Sept. 2020, would have banned no-knock warrants and required body cameras be turned on 5 minutes before and after the execution of any warrant. The bill died in committee

1033 purchases

No Progress:

Pennsylvania has not yet enacted a law ending its participation in programs that facilitate the transfer of military weapons from the federal government to police departments.

Military style training

No Progress:

Pennsylvania has not yet enacted a law refocusing training away from self-defense responses and towards community centered training like that offered by Blue Courage. PA police only receive 8 hours of community oriented police training, and only 17 hours of training addressing human relations.

SWAT data

No Progress:

Pennsylvania has not yet enacted a law requiring the recording and cataloging of SWAT team use. Exceptions to PA's Right-to Know Law make it incredibly difficult to access police records. SB 459 would have required records of all use of force incidents, including SWAT raids. The bill died in committee.

For Profit Policing

Learn about for profit policing and the specific issues below on the For Profit Policing page (opens in a new window).

 

Civil asset forfeiture

No Progress:

Pennsylvania has not yet enacted a law ending civil asset forfeiture. PA police departments are allowed to keep 100% of the forfeiture profits for their own budgets.

Quotas

Some Progress:

The PA legislature banned any quotas (indirect or direct) for traffic citations. Yet, recent video evidence suggests that this practice still continues.

Pending Legislation: HB 134, introduced in January 2021, establishes that "No political subdivision, regional police department or agency of the Commonwealth may order, mandate, require or in any other manner, directly or indirectly, suggest to any enforcement officer that the enforcement officer issue a certain number of citations on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly basis."

Cost of misconduct

Some Progress:

State police contribute to an insurance fund (ELSIP) that pays the first $250,000 of any claim. Amounts over $250,000 can be deducted from the police department's budget (though it is initially covered by the Commonwealth).

Broken Windows Policing

Learn about broken windows policing and the specific issues below on the Broken Windows Policing page (opens in a new window).

 

Minor offenses

No Progress:

Pennsylvania has not yet enacted a law decriminalizing minor offenses that do not threaten public safety such as spitting and loitering. In Sept. 2020, Gov. Wolf (D) renewed his call for legislators to consider legalizing marijuana, citing the economic windfall for the state that would be crucial given the economic losses associated with the spread of COVID-19.

Objective justification for stops

Achieved:

Commonwealth vs Adams (2019)--Police must have a reasonable suspicion to stop a person--traffic violations are not enough. Commonwealth vs Gary (2014) PA constitution provides the same level of protection as the 4th amendment against unreasonable search and seizure. Commonwealth vs Chase (2008) a stop is only justified if there is an investigative goal because the person is suspected of a crime.

Reporting stop details

No Progress:

Pennsylvania has not yet enacted a law requiring comprehensive reporting of police stops (noting location, race, gender, whether force was used and whether a firearm was found). The state conducted an independent review of police stops and searches from 2002-2012 (when they stopped collecting information) and found no racial disparities in who was searched. HB 1904 would have required that use of force reports require "physical characteristics including age, height, weight, gender and race". This bill died in committee.

Accountability

Learn about accountability and the specific issues below on the Accountability page (opens in a new window).

 

Reckless civil rights violation

No Progress:

Pennsylvania has not yet enacted a law lowering the prosecution requirement from ‘willful’ to ‘reckless’ deprivation of another’s rights.

Independent investigation

No Progress:

Pennsylvania has not yet enacted a law institutionalizing an independent prosecutor within the state’s Department of Justice for instances of police misconduct. SB 611 would have prosecuted incidents of deadly force through the Pennsylvania Attorney General instead of local attorneys. The bill died in committee.

Qualified immunity

No Progress:

Pennsylvania has not yet enacted a law ending qualified immunity.

Reinvesting in Communities

Learn about reinvesting in communities and the specific issues below on the Reinvesting in Communities page (opens in a new window).

 

Mental health response

No Progress:

Pennsylvania has not yet enacted a law creating and funding a mental health task force available to respond to crisis calls (in lieu of police). Though Governor Wolf did develop a state-wide mental health task force in May 2019, Wolf did not connect mental health needs with policing alternatives. Locally, Philadelphia began work in October 2020 to embed mental health professional expertise within call centers so that officers with Crisis Intervention Training certifications would be sent to the scene.

Education, Housing, Community Health Resources

No Progress:

It is important to note that policing does not address the roots of social disadvantage and barriers to (economic) opportunity that often lead to crime. Nor should police be burdened with that responsibility.
Without access to quality resources in healthcare, education, and housing, our cities, neighborhoods, and families will continue to suffer. We should instead reassess the budgets of the state government and reinvest in the services that matter most.

Next Steps

No matter what, register to vote:

Contacting officials is just one piece of the puzzle we can't stop there. We need to make sure our elected officials reflect our values and support reform at every level of government. Register here:

To keep these policies at the forefront:

Keep emailing about them (if you just finished the 5 Days Challenge, keep up the schedule—set reminders in your phone to email about each issue on its specific day).

To ask for more than this:

Use our templates as a model to ask for bigger changes. Color for Change and The Movement for Black Lives both have specific policy related to a reimagined law enforcement system. If you think there are additional policies we ought to consider, send your thoughts our way.

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