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 admit—plaguing 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.
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.