PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION RESOLUTION OPPOSING SENATE BILL 459, PRINTERS NO. 1817, AND PROPOSING AMENDMENTS THERETO

WHEREAS, it is the mission of the Philadelphia Bar Association to serve the public and the profession by promoting justice, professional excellence and respect for the rule of law; in so doing, the Association strives to foster understanding of, involvement in, and access to the justice system; and

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association supports the protection of Black lives and has a particular interest in seeing that the laws are faithfully and fairly enforced; and

WHEREAS, trust and respect between the police and the communities they serve is an essential component of public safety; and

WHEREAS, Senate Bill 459, Printers No. 1817, was passed by the Senate on June 24, 2020 by a vote of 50-0; and

WHEREAS, Senate Bill 459, Printers No. 1817, was referred to the House Judiciary Committee on June 29, 2020; and

WHEREAS, Senate Bill 459, Printers No. 1817, states “It is the policy of the Commonwealth to provide law enforcement agencies with record keeping and reporting requirements regarding the use of force and deadly force by law enforcement officers”; and

WHEREAS, Senate Bill 459, Printers No. 1817, states “Each law enforcement agency shall maintain records of all incidents involving a use of force by a law enforcement officer”; and

WHEREAS, Senate Bill 459, Printers No. 1817, states that the Commissioner of the State Police, “in consultation with the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association and the Fraternal Order of Police, shall develop a reporting mechanism each law enforcement agency must comply with and submit records of all use of force incidents”; and

WHEREAS, Senate Bill 459, Printers No. 1817, provides that each report of a use of force incident include (1) the reason for use of force; (2) personal injuries, if any; (3) property damage, if any; (4) deaths, if any; and (5) suspect information, including statute violations and apprehension status of the suspect; and

WHEREAS, Senate Bill 459, Printers No. 1817, provides that the “Pennsylvania State Police shall compile data sent by individual agencies on an annual basis” and “make an annual report based on Statewide data to the Office of Attorney General, the Judiciary Committee of the Senate, the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives and the Law and Justice Committee of the Senate”; and

WHEREAS, Senate Bill 459, Printers No. 1817, provides the Statewide annual report shall include (1) Statewide aggregations of information collected; (2) the total number and percentage of incidents involving the use of force; (3) the total number and percentage of incidents involving the use of force resulting in serious bodily injury; and (4) the total number and percentage of incidents involving the use of force resulting in death; and

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association, recognizes that Senate Bill 459, Printers No. 1817, is a significant step in the reform of record-keeping within the criminal justice system; nevertheless, the Philadelphia Bar Association recognizes that amendments are necessary before the bill can address the lack of public confidence in law enforcement; and

WHEREAS, Senate Bill 459, Printers No. 1817, is deficient in the following respects:

  1. The Commissioner of the State Police is only required to consult with the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police and the Fraternal Order of Police in developing a reporting mechanism; representatives of the public, and particularly communities which have traditionally suffered from police abuse, are excluded from consultation; and
  2. The legislation does not require the collection of demographics, such as to race, color, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and religion; the presence of mental or physical disability; whether the person was fleeing at the time of the incident; whether the individual possessed a weapon (including the type of weapon); and/or whether a body camera was used; and
  3. The legislation defines the term “serious bodily injury,” but fails to define the more inclusive term “personal injury”; which is required to be reported; and
  4. Because the legislation defines “force” as “efforts used by a law enforcement officer that may result in serious bodily injury or death,” and “serious bodily injury” as “permanent disfigurement or sustained loss of bodily function,” the legislation would not track use of force that fell below that threshold; and
  5. The legislation does not track all use of force by police and would leave untracked and unreported such incidents as use of Tasers, batons, or personal striking with fists or feet—all of which are capable of causing bodily injury; and
  6. The current legislation requires tracking of criminal history for any individual subjected to use of force unnecessarily putting the focus on the irrelevant factor of what the victim of police force may have done in the past which would have been unknown to police before the encounter began; and
  7. The annual report is not required to be disseminated to the general public via print, broadcast and internet media.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association opposes Senate Bill 459, Printers No. 1817 and any similar legislation providing for use of force record keeping and reporting for law enforcement agencies;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association supports amendments to Senate Bill 459, and similar legislation, which would provide for public consultation in developing reporting mechanisms; demographics as to race, gender and age of persons subjected to force, law enforcement officers and law enforcement agencies; a proper definition of “personal injury;” inclusion of all types of force used by police; deleting the reporting of citizen criminal history; and full public dissemination of all annual reports;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board of Governors of the Philadelphia Bar Association authorizes the Chancellor or the Chancellor’s designee(s) to communicate the position of this Association to the members of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, the Governor of Pennsylvania, the legal community, the media and the public, and to take such other action in furtherance of this resolution as may be deemed necessary.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
Adopted: August 27, 2020