While important to all citizens, reforms included in the Protect and Serve Initiative are especially important to Pennsylvania's people of color who feel threatened by a justice system that can disregard their humanity. These reforms also recognize our police must perform under uniquely challenging and difficult circumstances.

The House has advanced two bills to ensure police officers are properly vetted before hiring and trained to appropriately interact with individuals of diverse backgrounds. The legislation aims to root out systemic racism in law enforcement and address public concerns stemming from police-involved killings of black men and women in other states that have sparked protests worldwide. 

A Relationship of Mutual Trust and Respect

The majority of police officers choose the profession out of a desire to help and protect all people. When a police officer is overly aggressive or uses unwarranted deadly force, it erodes public trust and casts a cloud of suspicion over everyone who wears the uniform. Police officers are sworn to uphold the law and protect each and every one of us. Ours should be a relationship of mutual trust and respect.

Pennsylvania law requires police departments to conduct thorough background investigations on every police officer candidate before hiring them. This includes criminal history and past employment history.  However, the law does not require previous employers to release an officer’s employment information and many are reluctant to do so for fear of civil liability. Without this information, police departments could be missing critical knowledge concerning behavior and disciplinary actions that might otherwise preclude an officer from being hired. 

House Members Comment on Protect and Serve Initiative

House Votes to Strengthen Police, Community Relationships - Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler

Jozwiak Supports ‘Protect and Serve Initiative’ Approved by House - Rep. Barry Jozwiak, retired PA State Police officer and former Berks County Sheriff

Kauffman Supports House Passage of Bills to Assist Police, Build Community Trust - PA House Judiciary Committee Chair Rob Kauffman

Protect and Serve Initiative: Bills Passed in the House

House Bill 1841 would require disclosure of this information to a law enforcement agency conducting a background investigation of an applicant and permit a court to compel the release of the information if the employer fails to comply. The disclosure requests must be authorized by the candidate in writing and contain the signature of the person conducting the investigation. The bill would also require the establishment of an electronic database to collect and maintain the separation records of law enforcement officers for use by law enforcement agencies when hiring. 

House Bill 1910 would require police officers to receive training on how to interact with individuals of diverse backgrounds; de-escalation, harm reduction and reconciliation techniques; and community and cultural awareness. It also covers the appropriate use of force, provides for mental health evaluations in certain situations, and child abuse awareness training for officers and magisterial district judges.

PA House Judiciary Committee Chair Rob Kauffman explains the bills 

Protect And Serve Initiative:  Safe policing for Pennsylvania communities

- Promotes best policing practices.
Creates a system of information sharing for incidents of excessive force.
Equips officers with the tools for better and constructive community engagement.

It’s time for meaningful solutions that bring our communities together.