Pennsylvania Approves Police Reform Bill Requiring Employment Records From Officers Seeking New Jobs

Illustration for article titled Pennsylvania Approves Police Reform Bill Requiring Employment Records From Officers Seeking New Jobs
Photo: Ross Mantle (Getty Images)

The state of Pennsylvania is taking baby steps towards weeding out the “bad apples”—in a bunch that’s more spoiled throughout than people want to admitplaguing police departments by requiring officers applying for new positions to reveal previous employment records. And I know what you’re thinking: How was this not already a thing?


CNN reports that on Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf signed two police reforms bills into law. One of those bills mandates mental health evaluations for officers as well as training on the use of force, de-escalation (again, how. the. hell. is this a new requirement?), and community and cultural justice. The other bill will likely make it that much more difficult for officers with problematic records to receive promotions or to return to the force after losing their jobs due to infractions—a thing that happens a lot apparently.

From CNN:

One law will require officers to turn over all previous employment records when applying for new roles in law enforcement. It will require police agencies to explain why officers with past offenses were hired and it mandates creation of a database where departments can document disciplinary actions.

Before the bills were signed, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro acknowledged in a press conference that what’s being done isn’t enough, but it’s a start.

“Let me say this very clearly: Black lives matter,” Shapiro said, CNN reports. “But saying it...that’s just not enough. We must listen and we must take action. And today will be a down payment on the types of reforms we need to deliver on here in Pennsylvania.”

Shapiro also said he believes that by creating a new database exposing disciplinary actions and complaints against police officers “we start to rebuild the trust that has been lost over decades with bad behavior and injustice.”

Wolf echoed similar sentiments saying that the laws are “still, still not enough to halt the systemic racism and oppression that still exists throughout our Commonwealth.”


“Systemic racism is a complex issue,” he said. “It has existed for centuries and, in so many ways, it’s ingrained in our society. And I’m not going to downplay the challenges that we all face in eradicating it, but we have to find a way to eradicate it. We need to end racism.”

One of the cases Shapiro cited in pushing for these bills was that of Antwon Rose Jr., a Black 17-year-old who was gunned down while unarmed by former Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld in 2018 after Rose fled a traffic stop. In March 2019, Rosfeld was found not guilty of criminal homicide, but in November, Rose’s family settled a wrongful death lawsuit against the officer and East Pittsburgh for $2 million, according to CNN. According to Shapiro, Rosfeld had a long history of alleged misconduct.

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons



Cops should also be required to keep an, externally, auditable portfolio of best career practice throughout their career so they can show continuous career development. That way they don’t get to keep the same out of date, second hand, information for decades. That is a combination of professional journal articles, tests, and attendance records and materials from conventions. It must be made available, within 24 hours, at any time and without any prior warning, to the auditing team too. If they fail to deliver, or if they fail to show adequate career documentation, then they have to go onto external training schemes to bring them up to standard. If they fail more than a couple of times, they have to find new careers.

There should also be a professional register of law enforcement and being fired, or having too many complaints or professional failures, should result in being removed from the register and being forbidden to practice in law enforcement or associated professions for anything from 10 years to life depending on the nature of the offense. That should apply to both individual law enforcement personnel as well as law enforcement and associated profession’s entities in general. A few of those allegedly isolated rotten apples would then result in the entire department being disbanded and the law enforcement personnel in them all having to seek alternate employment en masse [except for the actual whistleblowers, who would still be allowed permission to practice]. That ought to focus a few minds on bringing down the blue wall.

Also microchip cops guns and holster latches. If we can’t take their guns away, then make it so that everytime they so much as unlatch them, they have to fill out a form -with accompanying body camera footage- justifying why they did. With real justification, not the ambiguous “I felt threatened” garbage, actual documented and objectively measured reasons. With, and I’m not just saying this because I work for a corporation does external HR auditing, external auditors signing off on it at random. Failure to provide reasons, or documentation, should result in real sanctions.