Freeman introduces bill to let housing authorities set up police departments

HARRISBURG, Sept. 28 – State Rep. Robert Freeman has reintroduced a bill that would let public housing authorities form their own police force.

"Philadelphia and Pittsburgh housing authorities already have this ability under current law, but smaller cities in the state often face some of the same problems with criminal activity that larger cities do," said Freeman, D-Northampton. "All public housing authorities should have the ability to set up their own police force in order to better combat crime.

"A public housing police force also would greatly enhance community policing efforts, making public housing projects safer for their residents and their families, especially children and the elderly."

Under Freeman's bill, housing authority police officers would look after public safety concerns in public housing projects, with the ability to call on municipal police for assistance as needed. They would be required to complete the same course of instruction and accreditation as is required for municipal police officers under state law. Funding for these police forces would come from public housing authority budgets.

While every housing authority would have the option to form a police force under Freeman’s bill, they would not be required to do so.

"Some authorities may choose to simply hire a detective rather than create a full-blown police force," Freeman said. "Either way, they could determine what would be the most appropriate approach to enhancing law enforcement efforts and better overall public safety." 

Besides reducing crime and enhancing public safety, Freeman said his bill also would provide a benefit for municipal police departments by providing more officers in certain communities where law enforcement resources are spread thin.

The bill (H.B. 1726) was referred to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.