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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: July 27, 2018 03:54 PM
From: Senator Sharif Street
To: All Senate members
Subject: Background Checks for Hiring of Law Enforcement Officials
In the near future, I will introduce legislation to amend Title 44 (Law and Justice) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, to create a record keeping and vetting process for law enforcement officers who are separated from service.

Police officers are guardians of our neighborhoods, and they are the first line of defense when it comes to keeping our constituents safe. Good police work makes a neighborhood safer and builds an indispensable bond between police officers and the communities they represent, but bad police work alienates communities, erodes their trust of authority, and allows bad cops to become their cultural norm, rather than the exception.

In the wake of countless instances of police brutality throughout the country and our commonwealth, specifically the case of Antwon Rose, this legislation is very important. Mr. Rose was killed by an officer who had been separated from a law enforcement agency but was rehired in another municipality without necessary vetting.

In many other industries there are required record keeping and vetting processes in place to protect citizens. To protect Pennsylvania’s children, there are public databases of the misconduct of teachers, the status and date received of their licenses, and other relevant information. This same protection should be given to all the citizens who interact with our law enforcement officials.

If enacted, this bill will create a state database housed in the Attorney General’s office that would create a record of separations of service by all local and statewide law enforcement agencies. The new hiring agency will have access to this record, and the hiring of the applicant will be contingent upon the viewing of this record. This record will not be public knowledge and is exempt from Right to Know laws, but if the municipality decides to hire an officer despite a record that contains allegations, complaints, investigations, or criminal charges concerning excessive force, theft, harassment, discrimination, sexual abuse, or sexual misconduct, then they must release a public notice of the hiring, along with a rationale and reasoning for their hiring, which will be available via a Right to Know request.

The bar for those who are authorized to use lethal force must be significant enough to ensure a high standard of safety and public accountability to those they serve. This legislation will take steps to ensure we have appropriate and qualified police representation in our communities.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this legislation. If you have questions, please contact my Policy Director, Micah Mahjoubian at micah@pasenate.com.