HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/KDKA) — The first bills passed by Pennsylvania’s Legislature in response to widespread protests over police brutality and the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota are now law with Gov. Tom Wolf’s signature.
In a news conference Tuesday in Harrisburg, Gov. Wolf, a Democrat, characterized the two bills he signed as small, but important steps toward making society fair.
The two bills passed the House and Senate unanimously last month.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro mentioned Antwon Rose, who was killed by an East Pittsburgh Police officer who had been fired from his previous police job.
“We can’t say that this database would have saved Antwon’s life, but I trust his mom. Mom, Michelle, believes this bill will save lives in the future, and she’s right,” said Shapiro.
Rose would have turned 20 this week.
Two years after a police officer with a past disciplinary record killed Rose, we’re seeing change. A jury acquitted the officer, but the community demanded action. Fast forward to this spring, Pittsburghers filled the streets in late May and June, protesting the death of George Floyd at the hands of a now charged Minneapolis Police Officer.
“Today Pennsylvania becomes one of the only states in our country to change our laws in the wake of George Floyd’s murder,” said Shapiro.
Shapiro praised the two new police reform laws signed by Governor Wolf. The politicians sat in a parking lot wearing masks, and the signing was followed by applause and elbow bumps.
“Because although we have many, many law enforcement officers who are honorable and dedicated, genuinely good and caring people, the disproportionate number of negative outcomes for black Pennsylvanians shows all — these issues still exist,” said Gov. Tom Wolf a democrat.
The first law requires police officers to disclose their employment history. It sets up a database for police chiefs to record any disciplinary action taken against an officer. Then if a future chief at another department tries to hire that officer with the disciplinary record, they will need to submit a hiring report.
“In their hiring report, they’re going to have to explain why they ignored these red flags,” said State Rep. Christopher Rabb a Democrat representing Pennsylvania’s 200th district. “And that hiring report is accessible to the public via Right To Know.”
That means more transparency for the public. The second law requires officers to undergo regular mental health screenings.
“The residents of the commonwealth expect the utmost qualified and honorable officers to serve in their respective communities,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Harris with the State Police.
Plus, the laws require new training on the use of force, implicit bias and community and cultural awareness.
“I’m also hopeful that this training will remind us that police officer should never take a human life when there is an alternative,” said State Rep. Dan Williams, a Democrat representing the 74th district.
(TM and © Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)