Rep. Jake Wheatley discusses a package of bills he endorses that address police-community relations and police reform.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Many protests and rallies have been held in our area and across the state and nation for several weeks, demanding justice and accountability and an end to systemic racism that has – for far too long – discriminated against our Black and Brown brothers and sisters.
Early this month, I joined my fellow Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus colleagues in taking over the rostrum in the House chamber and we spoke directly to the people. We wanted to let them know we hear their calls for justice and reform loud and clear. In addition, we also wanted to ensure House leadership knew that enough is enough.
While what we did was certainly unprecedented, it was sorely needed. For more than 18 months, my colleagues and I have been waiting for action on several measures focused on streamlining police procedures, including improving police-community relations and criminal justice reform.
At the end of that day, we were assured by leadership that those bills would be acted upon, which may include a special session in the House.
Bottom line: The brutality, racism, and hatred directed toward people of color must stop. The institutions that support systemic racism must also be held accountable and changes must be made.
We know that our communities have been hurting for decades. We also know that the legislature can take swift action to respond and end the status quo. To that end, our package of bills to do just that would:
- Modify definitions in statute for the use of deadly force.
- Reform interdepartmental police hiring by requiring law enforcement agencies to keep detailed personnel records surrounding an officer leaving a job.
- Appoint a special prosecutor to investigate any incident of deadly use of force involving a law enforcement officer.
- Reform the certification and decertification process for police officers.
- Address arbitration regarding matters of discipline for police.
I want each of you to continue to hold my colleagues and me accountable – keep putting the pressure on us to do more. You deserve real systemic changes, not just symbolic gestures. It’s imperative we must act and respond, and that is my promise to you. Please reach out to me with any questions or concerns you have via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call The People’s Office at 412-471-7760.