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Commission Considers Alternate 911 Dispatch for those in Crisis, Approves Recommendations

05/13/2022

Philadelphia, PA,  - The Pennsylvania State Law Enforcement Citizen Advisory Commission (Commission) today unanimously approved recommendations related to incidents of use of force and bias-based policing. Governor ​Tom Wolf established this first of its kind Commission to review and improve policies within commonwealth law enforcement agencies under the Governor’s jurisdiction including, but not limited to, the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), the Pennsylvania Parole Board, the Department of General Services Capitol Police, and the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) Park Rangers.

Today’s meeting included a further discussion on the Commission’s February recommendation regarding independent criminal investigations of incidents of use of force. It also featured a panel of national experts on alternative 911 dispatch for substance abuse and mental health crisis response. A goal of alternative 911 dispatch is to triage certain 911 calls to unarmed trained professionals equipped to provide support for those in crisis, thereby freeing up police resources to better support public safety needs. Panel members included:

  • Dr. Jessica Gillooly, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Suffolk University;
  • Professor John Hollway, University of Pennsylvania Law School and Executive Director of the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice;
  • Major Neill Franklin, Retired Maryland State Police and Former Executive Director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership;
  • Dr. Lionel King, Intercultural Researcher and Program Specialist with the Law Enforcement Action Partnership;
  • Gabriela Solis, Project Leader, Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab;
  • Erica Atwood, Senior Director, Office of Policy and Strategic Initiatives for Criminal Justice and Public Safety, Managing Director’s Office for Philadelphia;
  • Cristopher Dreisbach, Chief Executive Officer, and Benjamin McCoy, Executive Vice President, Blueprints for Addiction Recovery, Lancaster County Co-Responder Program; and
  • Chief Edward Cunningham, Chief of Police, Elizabethtown Police Department

“Pennsylvania is moving forward in addressing some of the most important topics of law enforcement today, and this expert panel will be instrumental in helping the Commission provide recommendations on alternate 911 dispatch for those in crisis,” said Deputy State Inspector General and Commission Chairperson, Sha S. Brown. “PSP and the Parole Board are both dedicated to the goal of improving Pennsylvania law enforcement, and the Commission’s recommendations to improve citizen engagement, policies, and programs will help them reach that goal.”

The Commission reviews completed internal investigative findings to determine if they were prompt, fair, impartial, complete, and performed in a manner consistent with applicable policies. They also consider whether adjudicatory findings or any imposed discipline were reasonable under law enforcement protocols and whether any policy or training deficiencies exist.

All final reports of the Commission, along with covered agencies’ responses, will be available on the Commission’s webpage when completed. Today’s recommendations for PSP and the Parole Board relate to citizen engagement and enhancements to policies and programs.

Citizen Engagement:

  1. Citizen Engagement and Communication: PSP should require all PSP members to identify themselves during traffic stops and provide the reason(s) for the stop.
  2. Documenting Citizen Encounters: PSP should modify its policies around verbal warnings to ensure that citizens have the option to receive written documentation of a traffic stop.

Enhancements to Policies and Programs:

  1. Use of Force Policy Enhancements: The Parole Board should enhance its use of force policy to include a definition of “reasonable force” consistent with United States Supreme Court precedent (this mirrors similar recommendations regarding PSP’s and DCNR’s use of force policies that were adopted at previous Commission meetings). The Parole Board should also consider revising its policy to ensure that adequate care is provided to any individual who is injured during a use of force incident.
  2. Body Worn Cameras: The Parole Board should implement a body worn camera program as recommended by best practices (this mirrors similar recommendations to PSP and DCNR that were adopted at previous Commission meetings).
  3. Traffic Enforcement Activity Using Criminal Indicators: PSP should adopt a formal policy requiring either quarterly or annual analysis of traffic enforcement data, to be made publicly available. Data should include demographic information, duration of traffic stops, and other information to determine the effectiveness of PSP’s use of criminal indicators in developing reasonable suspicion for initiating traffic stops and/or probable cause for subsequent searches of vehicles. PSP should use this data to evaluate whether the use of criminal indicators should continue in its current form.

Governor Wolf created the Commission in 2020 by Executive Order, by which the Commission is comprised of 21 voting members and six ex-officio members. Voting members include one representative from each of PSP’s current 15 Troop geographic areas and six citizen members chosen at-large.

Reports of abuse within law enforcement agencies under the Governor’s jurisdiction may be anonymously reported by filing an online complaint or calling the Law Enforcement Oversight Tipline: 1-833-581-1692.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jonathan P Hendrickson - 717-265-8396

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