HARRISBURG – Attorney General Shapiro brought together law enforcement and union leaders from across the Commonwealth to announce their support for ending the practice of law enforcement agencies unknowingly hiring officers with documented patterns of excessive use of force or other misconduct. The group includes:
· Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw,
· Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert,
· FOP Lodge 5 President John McNesby,
· President of the Pennsylvania State Lodge FOP Les Neri,
· Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association,
· Leaders in the Chiefs of Police Abington Chief of Police Patrick Molloy and Peters Township Chief of Police Douglas Grimes
“After listening to the community and law enforcement leaders, I saw there was common ground on this issue and worked to bring people together,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “Millions are peacefully demanding change in our country and we need to show them we’re listening. This is a down payment on the kinds of reforms we need to deliver, and I’m calling on the General Assembly to pass legislation. Community trust is vital for law enforcement, but trust is built through listening and then acting.”
The group today issued the following joint statement, “Officers who engage in misconduct or use excessive force erode trust in law enforcement and make it harder for our communities to be and feel safe. When they leave an agency, or retire in lieu of termination, that record needs to go with them. We stand united in calling for reform of the hiring process so that law enforcement agencies have the information to make informed decisions about the personnel they hire.”
When a hiring law enforcement agency calls an officer’s previous employer to inquire about that officer’s history, they are typically unable to obtain information about complaints against an officer or any disciplinary issues. Because of this, records are sometimes not even requested. As such, departments are blind to a prospective employee’s history, even when misconduct or a pattern of excessive use of force has been documented.
To remedy this, the General Assembly should pass legislation to require law enforcement agencies to keep detailed personnel records that include all substantiated complaints, as well as the reason and circumstances surrounding the separation of each officer. These records would be filed in a registry maintained by an appropriate law enforcement entity. Before hiring an officer, law enforcement agencies would be required to search the database and review the records of any officer before making an offer of employment.
This group is supporting legislation to accomplish this reform, versions of which have already been introduced in both the House and Senate by Rep. Chris Rabb and Sen. Jay Costa, respectively.
Interdepartmental police hiring reform has been called for by experts and grassroots community groups as well as the State Legislature Police Reform Working Group, and has recently been introduced at the federal level.
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