HARRISBURG, PA − March 15, 2016 − State Senator Art Haywood released the following statement after discussing a proposal for independent investigations of police-involved killings in the Judiciary Committee:
“Today the Judiciary Committee discussed Senator Gordner’s bill, SB 1031, that would reestablish the Independent Counsel Authorization Act. During the discussion of independent prosecutors, I brought attention to my legislation, SB 400, which would require independent investigations and, if necessary, prosecutions of killings by police officers. The Judiciary Committee agreed to hold a hearing on this legislation. SB 400 would require an attorney at the Office of the Attorney General take over investigations and prosecutions of police deadly force use in Pennsylvania.
Many Pennsylvanians perceive bias in the investigation and prosecution of police deadly-force incidents by local district attorneys. The close relationship between local police and district attorneys is typically productive and important for fighting crime. However, the relationship can lead to perceived bias when the District Attorney investigates a potential crime committed by the police. There were 23 police-involved shooting deaths in Pennsylvania in 2015.
In order to restore trust in law enforcement, Pennsylvania should require an independent investigation and, if necessary, prosecution of police-involved killings. Independent investigations and prosecutions in these cases are supported by the U.S. Department of Justice and the President’s Taskforce on 21st Century Policing, in addition to law enforcement leadership and community organizations across Pennsylvania. A hearing on this matter will move Pennsylvania closer to restoring trust in our criminal justice system.
Contact: Melissa Ostroff