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Last updated Jan. 20, 2020
No knock warrants
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
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
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.
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.
Civil asset forfeiture
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.
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
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).
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
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
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.
Reckless civil rights violation
Pennsylvania has not yet enacted a law lowering the prosecution requirement from ‘willful’ to ‘reckless’ deprivation of another’s rights.
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.
Pennsylvania has not yet enacted a law ending qualified immunity.
Mental health response
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
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.
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