Wilkinsburg — July 17, 2018 — Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, Jr. today attended a joint hearing of the Pennsylvania House and Senate Policy Committees regarding police and community relations.

“Improving relations between police departments and the communities they serve is a critically important topic, one that hit very close to home last month with the officer-involved shooting death of Antwon Rose,” said Senator Costa. “We did not arrive at this hearing with the belief that we had all of the answers to the questions our communities have, but I am impressed with the panelists we heard from and they’ve given us a lot to think about as we move forward.”

The Policy Committee Hearing featured testimony from a breadth of experts, including:

  • Sgt. William Slaton, Commander of the Heritage Affairs Section, Equality and Inclusion Office, Pennsylvania State Police
  • Coleman McDonough, Allegheny County Police Superintendent
  • Ophelia Coleman, Wilkinsburg Chief of Police
  • Dr. Cyril Wecht, Forensic Pathologist, Attorney and Medical-Legal consultant
  • Chad Dion Lassiter, Executive Director, PA Human Relations
  • Elizabeth Randol, Legislative Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of PA
  • Leon Ford, Writer, Survivor and Advocate
  • La’Tasha D. Mayes, Executive Director, New Voices for Reproductive Justice

Senator Costa is currently working on legislation to address several of the issues that were raised today, including improved training and community resources. His bill would:

  • Create specialized units to respond to crisis situations, including officer-involved shootings, to provide immediate access to mental health counseling for police and community members;
  • Develop a statewide database to permit transparency in the hiring of police officers; the database will include any disciplinary actions, misconduct or discriminatory policing complaints lodged against law enforcement personnel;
  • Require MPOETC to develop a uniform policy on the use of force and deadly force by police officers and direct municipalities that lack such policies to adopt and post the MPOETC uniform policy and require annual updates and training for police officers;
  • Create a bipartisan legislative caucus on cultural awareness in policing that can study police activities and make recommendations on improving community police relationships;
  • Improve Municipal Police Officer Training to include the following:
    • Enhanced classroom and field training on cultural awareness for police recruits and during police training;
    • Direct in the training and recertification curriculum, psychological counseling for police officers who may be suffering from PTSD or other similar issues. MPOETC would develop a statewide standard.