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Governor’s Commission Tackles Bias-Based Policing, Use of Force Policies

Nov 02, 2022

The Pennsylvania State Law Enforcement Citizen Advisory Commission (Commission) met last week to approve reviews of investigations related to police-involved shootings, uses of force, and bias-based policing. Governor Tom Wolf established this first of its kind Commission to review and improve policies within commonwealth law enforcement agencies under the governor’s jurisdiction including, but not limited to, the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), the Department of Corrections Parole Field Services (DOC), the Department of General Services Capitol Police, and the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources Park Rangers (DCNR).

“With these reports and recommendations, the Commission continues to tackle the important issues facing policing today,” said Deputy State Inspector General and Commission Chairperson, Sha S. Brown. “The partnership among the Commission, PSP, DOC, and the other commonwealth law enforcement agencies has begun to produce extraordinary results, and the work of these agencies together will have a lasting impact on the citizens of Pennsylvania.”

The Commission reviews completed internal investigative findings to determine if they were prompt, fair, impartial, complete, and performed in a manner consistent with applicable policies. They also consider whether adjudicatory findings or any imposed discipline were reasonable under law enforcement protocols and whether any policy or training deficiencies exist.

All final reports of the Commission, along with any responses from covered agencies, will be available on the Commission’s webpage when completed. These recommendations for DOC and PSP seek to strengthen use of force policies and eliminate bias-based policing.

Strengthening Use of Force Policies:

  1. TASER Policy Enhancements – DOC should enhance its use of force policy to include cautions regarding TASER deployments near flammable liquids and to detail where TASER deployments fall within its Resistance and Control Continuum.
  2. Post-Incident Internal Investigation Procedures – In accordance with best practices, DOC should enhance its policies to ensure post-incident interviews occur as soon as practical after the 72-hour waiting period and should complete post-incident investigations within 180 days.
  3. Less than Lethal Use of Force – PSP should enhance its use of force policy to permit the use of less than lethal proportional force (given the totality of circumstances) to carry out a legitimate law or civil enforcement activity.

Eliminating Bias-Based Policing:

  1. Bias-Based Policing Policies – PSP should update its Bias-Based Profiling Review Policy and all relevant employee code of conduct and enforcement-related policies to better define prohibitions of conduct against all protected classes and provide examples and descriptions of acts that may indicate bias-based policing.
  2. Mandated Annual Bias-Based Policing or Implicit Bias Training – PSP should mandate in-service annual bias-based policing or implicit bias training for all members.

Governor Wolf created the Commission in 2020 by Executive Order, by which the Commission is comprised of 21 voting members and six ex-officio members. The Executive Order provides that voting members include one representative from each of PSP’s current 15 Troop geographic areas and six citizen members chosen at-large.

Reports of abuse within law enforcement agencies under the governor’s jurisdiction may be anonymously reported by filing an online complaint or calling the Law Enforcement Oversight Tipline at 1-833-581-1692.

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