By: Don Shaw email: don.shaw@pennsylvaniachronicle.com (570) 543-2961

Governor Tom Wolf seeks to resurrect Obama recommendations, police slam move point to Wolf marching with Blue Lives Murder signs

Governor Tom Wolf seeks to resurrect Obama recommendations, police slam move point to Wolf marching with Blue Lives Murder signs

Harrisburg, PA

Governor Tom Wolf announced several actions to improve law enforcement relations with the community and strengthen training and accountability.

“Today, I am taking steps to address concerns about community relations with law enforcement as well as strengthen accountability of our agencies,” Gov. Wolf said. “This effort will commence immediately.”

Wolf outlined multiple actions, many based on the 21st Century Policing Task Force, created in 2015 under President Obama in response to the Ferguson, Mo., death of black teen Michael Brown that set off weeks of protests. In that case the police officer was not charged by the state or US Department of Justice following investigations by both with the local prosecutor finding the shooting justified.

Highlights of the recommendations include:

  • Creation of a Deputy Inspector General within the Pennsylvania Office of State Inspector General (OSIG) focused on deterring, detecting, preventing, and eradicating fraud, waste, misconduct, and abuse amongst law enforcement agencies under the Governor’s jurisdiction.
  • Creation of a Pennsylvania State Law Enforcement Advisory Commission that reviews allegations of misconduct by law enforcement personnel under the governor’s jurisdiction.
  • Providing technical assistance to municipalities from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) to encourage the creation of local citizen advisory boards.
  • Creation of a Racial and Ethnic Disparities Subcommittee under the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee (CJAC) at PCCD.
  • Reviewing Training and Education of Officers. All training academies for law enforcement must review current use of force training standards for law enforcement and form a workgroup to develop model training standards to ensure that all officers receive the best instruction in their interactions with the public. Departments should be striving to obtain state and or national accreditation. Accreditation is a key component in assisting departments in evaluation and improvement of their standards and practices.
  • Enhancing Officer Safety and Wellness. Enhancing current mental health initiatives and offering targeted mental health supports for officers to deal with trauma and reduce stigma for getting help.
  • Supporting Legislative Reforms. The governor will work with the legislature on reforms, including legislation proposed that provides for improved access to police videos, an oversight board for officer training and continuing education, a special prosecutor in deadly force cases, interdepartmental law enforcement hiring reform and PTSD evaluation for police officers.Earlier this week, members of the Police Reform Working Group, which includes state and local elected officials, the chief defender of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, as well as several attorneys, put forward proposals to address growing frustration with racism, oppression and rooting out law enforcement misconduct.

“We’ve addressed criminal justice reform on a bipartisan basis, and that’s what we’ll need to fix these longstanding inequities,” Gov. Wolf said. “And as we go forward, we need to address the looming, systemic failings that have created this situation.”

The governor also committed to addressing longstanding inequalities against people of color.

“I’m going to continue to fight for more education funding and for help for minority-owned businesses. These fights do not have an end point, and we won’t know when we’ve won, but we have to keep going to make our commonwealth fairer and more equal for everyone.”

Fraternal order of police state lodge president Les Neri today issue the following statement
 
Although the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd is very troubling, we do not feel that it should define the dedicated men and women in law-enforcement who risk their lives every day to protect everyone. The involved officers have been criminally charged and will be held accountable for their actions as prescribed by law. The 40,000 men and women of the Pennsylvania fraternal order of police have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, as well as protect and serve the citizens of this Commonwealth.

 
The Pennsylvania fraternal order of police is aware that this incident in Minneapolis has diminished the trust and respect that many in our communities have for the men and women of law-enforcement. We are firmly committed to working with stakeholders to create an environment of healing, understanding and trust.
 
There is no place for racism in our profession or our society every person is created equal and thereby entitled to the same exact application and protection under the law. 
The Pennsylvania State Trooper Association President David Kennedy said in a statement:
 
What happened to George Floyd was horrific and wrong. There isn’t a single state trooper who disagrees. But what Governor Wolf is saying today is the Pennsylvania State police and all law-enforcement in our Commonwealth, are no better than those charge with Mr. Floyd stuff. This is clear when he ignored his own order in March in Harrisburg this week during during a pandemic holding signs that read, Blue Lives Murder.”
 
So here’s a message to the people of Pennsylvania: troopers go to work every day knowing they may not return home to our loved ones this is a sacrifice we except because we have sworn an oath to Uphold the laws of the commonwealth in the United States without any consideration of class, creed or condition. We live by the south in a dedicated protecting you, our fellow citizens, and the rule of law. And that will never change.