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Pennsylvania House of Representatives
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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: March 29, 2019 10:05 AM
From: Representative Summer Lee and Rep. Ed Gainey
To: All House members
Subject: Law Enforcement Deadly Use of Force
On June 19, 2018, 17-year-old Antwon Rose II was shot in the back and killed by East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld. He was unarmed, afraid, and fleeing. Despite the clear facts of the case, the officer was acquitted of the murder charge in a ruling that exposed a major flaw in the Pennsylvania police use of force law.

Under current law Title 18, an officer can deploy deadly force on a fleeing person who possesses a deadly weapon - whether or not that person indicates a threat to life or a desire to inflict a serious bodily injury. This can lead to death for possessing a firearm without any intent to use it at all. Additionally, the mere fear of a weapon has resulted in the murder of civilians who were unarmed.

Our legislation seeks to eliminate effectuating an arrest as a justification for the use of deadly force. Instead, our proposal would mandate that de-escalation and non-lethal force options be exhausted prior to lethal force being deployed and that lethal force only be used and justified to prevent imminent threat to life.

Our police officers must be able to exercise restraint and good judgment as they are tasked and sworn to protect and serve the people. Providing proper training, instituting morally sound legislation, and shifting the approach from aggressive and fear-based policing to life preservation and de-escalation of threats will elevate the professional conduct of officers, decrease the amount of injury and loss of life, and provide a mechanism for justice in the event of unnecessary use of force. Please join me in supporting this vital legislation as we improve professional standards while improving the safety of our communities, and upholding equity and justice for all.

Introduced as HB1664