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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: January 5, 2021 11:46 AM
From: Senator Art Haywood
To: All Senate members
Subject: Use of Force
In the near future, I plan to reintroduce SB 1196 of 2019-20 to amend Title 18, Section 508 regarding the use of force by law enforcement.  This bill will mirror House Bill 1664, introduced by Representatives Lee and Gainey. 

Title 18, Section 508 (a)(1) states that a peace officer “is justified in the use of any force which he believes to be necessary to effect the arrest and of any force which he believes to be necessary to defend himself or another from bodily harm while making the arrest.” The broad scope of this use of force policy needs to be amended to limit its unfettered use for violence.

This policy change recognizes the value of all human life and dignity. Vesting officers with the authority to use reasonable force and to protect the public welfare requires a careful balancing of all interests. It is imperative we amend Title 18, Section 508 to prevent injustices from being carried out by law enforcement and to protect all people in the Commonwealth.

The legislation would address the use of force and provide for the following:
  • The use of force is authorized to be used when a peace officer reasonably believes the circumstances perceived by the officer at the time of the event;
  • Peace officers may only use deadly force may when necessary to defend human life. In determining when deadly force is necessary, officers shall evaluate each situation and shall use other available resources and techniques if reasonably safe and feasible to an objectively reasonable officer;
  • The decision by a peace officer to use force shall be evaluated carefully and thoroughly, in a manner that reflects the gravity of that authority and the serious consequences known to or perceived by the officer at the time, rather than with the benefit of hindsight, and that the totality of the circumstances shall account for occasions when officers may be forced to make quick judgments about using force. 

As a country, it is critical to ensure law enforcement is protecting people. As other states are taking the necessary steps to protect the community, it is important Pennsylvania joins the movement.

I encourage my colleagues to join me in co-sponsoring this important change.