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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: June 9, 2020 01:29 PM
From: Senator Anthony H. Williams
To: All Senate members
Subject: Strengthening and Funding Civilian Police Oversight Boards
In the near future, I will be introducing a bill to strengthen civilian oversight of municipal police departments while providing state funding to local governments which enact strong reform measures.
The overwhelming public outcry in reaction to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis has awakened a renewed moral obligation to act. For too long, law enforcement officers have been shielded from accountability to the citizens they serve. Even when officers have clearly violated the law or standards of conduct and are disciplined by their commanders, a system of binding arbitration favorable to those officers keeps them employed. Allowing bad officers to return to the force undermines community trust and respect for the whole department. Shifting to a model of community accountability, wherein appointed or elected residents of the municipality have a large say in how police patrol their neighborhoods is critical to restoring that trust and respect.
My bill would require municipalities to create citizen oversight boards to review police department policies, procedures and orders, as well as review use-of-force incidents and officer disciplinary cases. In order to promote vigorous authority of these boards, state funding would be provided on a sliding scale based on the strength of public accountability, with funding up to 1% of the total municipal police budget for boards which are given authority to discipline officers directly in coordination with department leaders. Examples of cities with strong civilian police oversight include Oakland, California and Detroit, Michigan.
Now is the time for bold action that restores faith in our law enforcement agencies. The public must have a strong voice in the operation and direction of their police departments, and officers must know that they will be held accountable for actions contrary to their duty to protect and serve. Please join me in co-sponsoring this critical legislation. Questions or concerns may be directed to my legislative director, Kyle Miller, at kyle.miller@pasenate.com or 717-787-5970.
Thank you.


Introduced as SB1202