Gainey, lawmakers unveil police reform package

Slate of measures aims to improve community-police relations.

State Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny, speaks at a press conference Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018.

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 14 – On Thursday, state Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny, joined with state Sens. Jay Costa, Wayne Fontana and Jim Brewster, and state Reps. Jake Wheatley, Dan Miller and Austin Davis, to unveil a slate of measures to improve community-police relations and prevent unnecessary deaths like that of Antwon Rose in June.

“This is not to point the finger at or place blame on anyone, but rather to start an honest conversation about how we improve police community relations,” said Gainey. “We know that we have many great police officers; we also know that we have some bad actors within the organization, just as we do in all other professions. We need to work together and move forward together.”

The legislation, now seeking co-sponsors, focuses on three categories:

Police Administration & Management

  • Municipal Police Officer Education and Training Commission Improvements
  • Improved Police Pay
  • Regional Policing Incentive Program and Study

Community Relations

  • Professional Oversight and Policy Development Board
  • Change the Standard for Police Using Deadly Force
  • Police Diversity Recruitment

Event Response

  • Police Shooting Response Team
  • Special Prosecutor

“Since the tragic shooting death of Antwon Rose in June, my colleagues and I have worked tirelessly to address and provide solutions to police shootings and violence,” said Wheatley. “Our initiatives center on a three-pronged approach, including an overhaul of police management, more community inclusion and a better response to police shootings. I’m asking other lawmakers to join us in support of our legislation.”

“I can’t think of many other relationships as important to the unity and safety of our community than the one between police and citizens,” Davis said. “We have seen the devastating consequences when there is a breakdown in that relationship. I’m hopeful that the work I’ve been doing with my colleagues to draft legislation on police management and community relations will be a crucial step in the right direction. We need to ensure that police can continue in their mission to protect and serve, while citizens can feel confident in their ability to trust and support police actions.”

“The time has long since passed that we modernize policing and criminal justice in Pennsylvania,” said Miller. “By underfunding drug treatment, mental health, and our schools, we have dumped a ridiculous amount of societal problems on their desks while giving them a woefully outdated playbook. We must do better, and working with law enforcement is key to raising standards across the board. We must ensure professionalism and accountability while eliminating the historically discriminatory impact of our criminal justice system on communities of color and on people of limited economic means.”

Fontana and Brewster, who were not able to attend yesterday’s event, will be offering legislation in this package.

“We need to find ways to improve the level of trust and cooperation between citizens and police officers on a broad range of matters, such as the use of force, diversity education, oversight and community relations,” said Fontana. “This package of reform legislation is a step in the right direction in addressing these issues.”

“Exploring new ways to improve police services is extremely important,” Brewster said. “Allowing municipalities to pursue voluntary and consensual police mergers – provided there are incentives to smooth the transition while ensuring citizen safety is not compromised – is a viable approach to addressing local police issues. These efforts, combined with other measures I have offered – such as increasing pay for part-time police and changing the board composition of the Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Commission to better reflect local policing – are important improvements that need to be acted upon.”