Lee, Miller vote to advance police accountability bills to House

Lawmakers say unanimous, bipartisan vote today is just the start and more must be done

HARRISBURG, June 15 – As rallies and protests demanding action on police violence continued over the weekend in communities large and small in Pennsylvania, the state legislature took its first steps toward passing police accountability legislation, although much more needs to be done, said state Reps. Summer Lee and Dan Miller, both D-Allegheny, who this morning voted to amend and move two police reform bills from the state House Judiciary Committee.

“Today we took our first steps toward equity and justice by moving an initial round of police accountability legislation out of committee. But make no mistake – today’s action was just that, a tentative, first step,” Lee said. “Across our commonwealth, people are crying out for justice, for reason, for equality – and we would not have had this hearing today if not for them. Their voices cry out for change, and I commit that we will not rest until the Republican majority – which controls which bills are brought to the floor – opens debate and allows votes on serious, meaningful reforms.”

The legislation amended and approved by the committee included:

  • HB1910 – A police training bill that was amended to mandate in-service training on the use of force, de-escalation techniques, cultural awareness and bias; and amended to include training on trauma-informed care, specifically PTSD.
  • HB1841 – A bill expanding background checks for police and other law enforcement officers, which was amended to create a confidential repository of employment records relating to misconduct.

“We are thankful for the modest first step this morning by the House Judiciary Committee and we look forward to these bills coming up for passage on the floor of the House next week,” Miller said. “But this is just the beginning of a process that needs to happen not in six months, or next year, but now. This summer we need the House, working with law enforcement and community leaders from around the state, to bring us together to shape meaningful solutions to long-overdue issues.”

Last week members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus and their allies -- which included Lee and Miller -- staged protest in the House, disrupting a planned voting session to demand action on 19 police reform bills, many of which had been introduced more than a year ago, but have been languishing in committee in the Republican-controlled House.

Their action led to calls for a special session to address police and law enforcement reforms, although legislators have noted that their legislation could be advanced – and voted on – during a regular session if Republican leadership so chooses.

“As I have said several times, our agenda should not be what legislation is easy to vote for, or what bills will make for good headlines or social media, but our agenda is and needs to be driven by the people – the people who we were elected to represent and who – this very day – continue to march and rally in the streets demanding change,” Lee said. “The march toward justice, toward equality is long, and it will be difficult. But until we – as a legislative body – are willing to have those difficult conversations, to cast those difficult votes, then that march must continue.”