Wolf Administration Announces New Law Enforcement Reform Tool to Enhance Hiring Practices
July 16, 2021
As part of his ongoing law enforcement reform efforts, Governor Tom Wolf today joined the Pennsylvania State Police to announce the launch of a new electronic database for use by law enforcement agencies in the hiring of law enforcement officers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
“This is an important tool for our law enforcement agencies. It will help agencies identify potential red flags in candidates, which helps agencies invest in better employees they’ll want to train and retain and keep officers with a history of misconduct away from roles where they can cause further harm,” Gov. Wolf said. “Law enforcement reform is crucial to improving public safety. This, along with the reforms my administration has implemented over the past year, will make our commonwealth safer for everyone.”
The database, established by the Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission (MPOETC), will contain information on law enforcement officers who have a history of criminal charges or discipline for actions ranging from excessive force to discrimination. It will be used to augment the enhanced background investigation process for the hiring of law enforcement officers.
Additionally, for the first time in the state’s history, law enforcement agencies are required to maintain and provide all employment records, including performance evaluations and reasons for separation, pertaining to a previously employed law enforcement officer to a prospective hiring agency.
“The database established by MPOETC is an added tool to assist in the hiring process of law enforcement personnel who are ultimately held to a higher standard of professionalism throughout the commonwealth,” said Colonel Robert Evanchick, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police. “I would like to thank all of the MPOETC commissioners, staff, information technology personnel, and members of the PSP who worked tirelessly to ensure the database was operational by July 14.”
The database was created as a result of Act 57 of 2020, which was unanimously approved in the General Assembly and signed by Governor Wolf on July 14, 2020. It required MPOETC to develop a database to hold separation records of all law enforcement officers in the commonwealth defined as peace officers.
As required by law, on July 14, 2021 the database was operational and temporary regulations went into effect.
“The database is up and running, every department must participate, and it will save lives,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “This is a down payment on reform, one of many steps we need to take to fulfill the promise of safety and the promise of justice, so that every Pennsylvanian can be, and can feel, safe in their own community.”
The development of permanent regulations will occur over the next year in accordance with the Regulatory Review Act and are required to be completed by March 2023. During this time, MPOETC will seek input and feedback of stakeholders and the public. In addition, MPOETC will also use this time to test and refine the database and associated regulations to ensure compliance in carrying out the purposes of Act 57.
The database will contain more than 1,300 agencies and approximately 30,000 to 35,000 officers. Pennsylvania State Police Troopers and Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement Officers are included. Currently in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania there are 1,063 municipal law enforcement agencies with more than 22,000 officers.
“We’re not perfect. We recognize we have a few ‘bad apples’ in our bunch, and I think I speak for all of us when I say we want those bad apples out too. We want to continue to do the things we need to do, to restore a reputation that has been tarnished over the past year or so, by the actions of those few thoughtless individuals. We want to nurture that public trust that once again fosters faith in local law enforcement and inspires little girls and boys to become police officers,” said York City Police Chief Michael Muldrow. “I commend Governor Wolf, our legislators and the commission for taking these first steps — with the changes found in Act 57, the new database and the reporting requirements that come with it. It will undoubtedly help to fill in some of the cracks those individuals have been able to slip through. We’re going to take it from there, pushing to be best versions of ourselves, not because it’s mandated, but because it’s the right thing to do.”
“Act 57 is the culmination of robust police accountability legislation, nonviolent direction action inspired by a diverse array of Pennsylvanians’ grassroots mobilizing efforts to address and correct deep inequities in policing and society at large,” said state Representative Chris Rabb (D-Philadelphia). “With bolstered transparency measures adopted through the regulatory process, the proper resources and administrative rigor, this state inter-departmental law enforcement misconduct database has the potential to identify and ultimately reduce the number of law enforcement agency applicants with documented disciplinary actions against them that endanger community safety.”
“The launch of this police misconduct database moves us a step forward toward true police reform, accountability and transparency,” said state Representative Donna Bullock (D-Philadelphia), chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus. “Members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus started advocating for this database after meeting with the mother of Antwan Rose who was fatally shot in 2018 by an officer sworn in just hours before. This database is a direct outcome of her advocacy, the Police Reform Working Group and many others.”
“The establishment of the police hiring database of all law enforcement officers is a critical step toward improving transparency and strengthening the bonds between the community and law enforcement,” said state Senator Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia). “Bad actors often compromise the ability of police to effectively protect people by undermining the trust which is essential for a healthy relationship between the community and law enforcement. This is progress but we still have work to do.”
Addressing law enforcement reform is a priority for Governor Wolf. In June 2020, the governor announced comprehensive police reform executive actions in the wake of the death of George Floyd when in Minneapolis police custody and subsequent protests in Pennsylvania and across the country.
For more information on the Act 57 separation database, visit mpoetc.psp.pa.gov.