Racial Justice

To demand change in Pennsylvania, text BLM to 787753.


SB 458 - Training and Accountability

Introduced by Senator Jay Costa

Municipal Police Officer Education and Training Commission Improvements:

  • Require new training elements for use of deadly force, community-oriented policing, de-escalation methods, interacting with diverse communities, and bias prevention. All of these are required to some degree now, but more needs to be done. Requiring each of these elements to be included in continuing education course work is also necessary.
  • Creation of a database to require municipalities to report and track criminal, disciplinary, and investigation information for every municipal police officer for use by future hiring police departments.
  • Improved psychological examinations of officers seeking MPOETC certification.
  • Development of minimal guidelines for municipalities to adopt for forming and running police departments.

SB 611 - Special Prosecutor

Introduced by Senator Art Haywood

Our criminal justice system is meant to be impartial and for prosecutors to discharge their duties free of personal or professional conflicts. We have legislation that would take review and prosecution of deadly force incidents at the hand of police officers out of the jurisdiction of the local district attorney and put it in the hands of a special prosecutor.

Our bill would require the Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor whenever there is a deadly force incident and a police officer is involved. The special prosecutor would serve as an impartial prosecutor and remove the perceived conflict a district attorney might have prosecuting a local police officer.

Our bill is not meant to punish an officer for discharging his or her duties. It is simply meant to provide a  neutral review of a case when an individual dies at the hands of a police officer and to restore the shaken public trust in our judicial system. It is to be expected that prosecutors and police share a close relationship and have to work cohesively together. This relationship is typically productive and is important for fighting crime. However, in the eyes of many in the public, when an officer is involved in a potential crime this relationship may cloud the investigator.

SB 1202 - Banning Chokeholds and Positional Asphyxia

Introduced by Senator Sharif  Street 

The deaths of George Floyd and Eric Garner, who both died at the hands of police using questionable methods of restraint, has made it clear that we need to ban chokeholds of any type. While chokeholds have been banned by many departments, this has not stopped their use. Additionally, many law enforcement and health personnel are taught to avoid restraining people in a way that can lead to positional asphyxia.

The Chief of Police Association accredits law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania. In 2001, the Association introduced the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation process for police departments to create standard policing practices amongst accredited agencies. These types of restraints are forbidden for accredited departments. However, according to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, only 118 of the more than 1,000 law enforcement agencies in the Commonwealth are accredited.

Our legislation would outlaw the use of the standard chokehold and define positional asphyxia as any action that inhibits breath or the flow of blood to the brain due to physical position.

Haywood on Racial Justice

Address racism on college campuses

Address racism on college campuses

Martin Luther King Jr. was right. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. When racial injustice appears and is allowed to fester on our college campuses, we believe that threat is particularly ominous. When Black students, who are often away from home...

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Will Black voters again allow Trump to be elected?

Will Black voters again allow Trump to be elected?

By Sen. Art Haywood

After winning in November 2016, Trump thanked Black voters for staying at home.

“We did great with the African American community…They didn’t come out to vote for Hillary. They didn’t come out,” he said. “And that was big— so thank you to the African American community.”

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Get Involved!
Call your Legislator

For Organizations

Ending policing policy that foster injustice and raising the minimum wage to $15/hr is a win-win for community members, workers and the commonwealth. Here is a sample script that you can use.

Sample Call Script:

Thank you for taking my call. Hello, this is __________ with [name of organization]. We represent [X] number of people in your district. I am calling to request a meeting with you to discuss potential legislation that would require independent investigations of police involved killings, changes to the use of lethal force policing policies, and raising the state minimum wage to $15/hr. Can we schedule a meeting with your office next week, if not sooner, to discuss these important issues further?

If the legislator is unavailable to meet but a staff person is available, follow the same approach and set up a meeting with the Chief of Staff for the office.

For Constituents

Here is a sample script that you can use. Make sure you give your name and identify that you are a constituent. 

Sample Call Script:

Hello, this is __________. I’m a resident of [local municipality and/or district]. I am calling to express my support for legislation that requires independent investigations of police involved killings, changes to the use of lethal force policing policies, and raising the state minimum wage to $15/hr. Ending policing policy that foster injustice and raising the minimum wage to $15/hr is a winwin for community members, workers and the commonwealth. We need to end policies that have added to systemic injustice. I am asking [State Legislator] to support these legislative proposals. Thank you for taking my call! [IF LEAVING A VOICEMAIL: please leave your full street address and zip code to ensure your call is tallied as a constituent] [Optional Addition]

Personal stories are the most effective form of advocacy. Talk about why these issues are important for you or someone you know.

Gov. Wolf Signs Police Reform Bills

Statement from PA Senate Democrats on Racial Equity

Like many of you, we in the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus are struggling with the death of George Floyd and working to understand what equity is and how it is understood by different people. The events in Minneapolis unfortunately represent a pattern of violent incidents resulting from the fundamental misunderstanding of what equity means: from the lynching of Emmett Till to the beating of Rodney King to the shooting of Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin. All were victims of an unjust and unequal society that fails to see the humanity of every person regardless of their race or ethnicity.

As a nation, we will never be able to deliver equity or justice to a family or a community if we do not understand their lived experience. Feeling the same moral outrage after witnessing multiple similar events over the last few years, many of us joined you in the streets for peaceful protests and calls to action. Unfortunately, many of us have also witnessed these peaceful and Constitutional gatherings turn dark, as the messages of peace and unity were supplanted by people seeking to wreak havoc and sow discord. We have condemned the theft and vandalism while protecting our own homes and communities.

No one who believes in the equity of human beings can justify what happened to George Floyd, nor can they justify the disproportionate response with which many peaceful protests were met over the past several days. Nor can anyone who has examined the state of our union over the last several years disagree that racial inequity has been allowed to fester and grow throughout the country. From law enforcement to education to health care, institutions of government cannot be allowed to willfully close their eyes to the plight of others. We know racism, prejudice and bigotry have no place in public policy, and must act like it. This moment of tragedy has given us yet another opportunity to dismantle and replace mechanisms that perpetually lead to negative outcomes for so many. PA Senate Democrats continue to aggressively pursue legislative change to bring equity in the face of injustice. Our humanity will lift us out if this moment of profound pain, and we can move toward a future where everyone is treated with the dignity they deserve.