HARRISBURG – In the wake of protests across the state and nation, police reform bills, including a proposal to ban chokeholds, are moving in both chambers of the General Assembly.
The state House could vote today on final passage of two other reform bills, including a measure to create a statewide database of misconduct that police agencies would check before hiring officers. The measure was approved unanimously Tuesday by the House rules committee, setting up a potential final vote before the full chamber.
The House is also poised to act on a measure that would require that police officers dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder be removed from patrol functions and given administrative duties.
Late Monday, the state Senate Law and Justice committee approved a proposed chokehold ban, authored by state Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, Under the measure, police would be barred from using chokeholds unless they were in a situation in which use of deadly force was permitted.
The Law and Justice committee also approved legislation — proposed by Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny County — that would require police departments to file reports with the state police after incidents involving the use of force and require state police to publish an annual report on the number of incidents involving uses of force by police and the number of incidents that led to deaths.
The Senate bills were passed after the Law and Justice and Judiciary committees wrapped up two days of hearings on potential police reform legislation last week.
State Sen. James Brewster, D-Allegheny County, said the hearings shed light on the issues in a way to inspire “landmark legislation.”
“It’s gratifying that we’re reaching consensus in a week’s time,” he said.
The chokehold ban bill was amended to require that all departments create policies spelling out when police officers are permitted to use force to make an arrest, subdue a suspect or protect police officers or others.
The move to ban the use of chokeholds by police officers received the backing of Attorney General Josh Shapiro last week. The attorney general said his agents don’t use chokeholds.
President Donald Trump also announced an executive order intended to limit the use of chokeholds by police.
The proposed chokehold ban moving in the state Senate would cover a wider range of chokehold restraints than Trump’s order, said Desmond McKinson, a spokesman for Street. In addition, passing a state ban would provide more direct accountability limiting the use of chokeholds than the president’s order would provide, he said.
Shapiro and a group of law enforcement organizations and prosecutors announced their support for the House measure to create a database of misconduct complaints
Dauphin County District Attorney Francis Chardo was among those who joined the attorney general to back the hiring reform bill.
“This common sense measure will ensure that police officers who engage in serious misconduct do not simply move to another department,” he said.
The Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association announced Tuesday that it too supports the hiring database bill after the bill was amended to include sheriff’s deputies.
“We firmly believe in the necessary level of transparency that is vital to operate in a democracy such as ours and look forward to upholding the highest of standards as exhibited in other law enforcement and criminal justice agencies,” the sheriffs’ group said in a statement.