Summer Lee Announces Police Reform Proposals in Response to Shootings, Protests

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Summer Lee Announces Police Reform Proposals in Response to Shootings, Protests

Dominic Victoria, Writer

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This past Tuesday, state Rep. Summer Lee (D-Swissvale) announced a collection of five bills for police reform in Pennsylvania. Her announcement comes after the acquittal of Michael Rosfeld in March for the East Pittsburgh shooting of Antwon Rose II, an unarmed black teenager, last June. According to tweets by Lee, Democratic representatives Ed Gainey, Jake Wheatley, Chris Rabb, and Brian Sims will all be contributing to the legislative package, which they hope to pass before House elections in 2020.

In a brief speech, Lee specifically mentioned the mass protests in the Pittsburgh area that broke out in the weeks following the shooting and jury decision, stating “We don’t want to be like Ferguson and other areas where police shootings happened, where massive protests broke out, but there was no legislative response.”

Each of the five proposed laws and resolutions tries to address a different aspect of police reform. One of the bills aims to make nonviolent methods of de-escalation the priority in police confrontations, with another implementing a special prosecutor to investigate any uses of deadly force in the state. Other proposed legislation in the package would implement a more thorough hiring and certification process for law enforcement Pennsylvania.

Republican spokesman Mike Straub was cautiously open-minded in response to Lee’s proposal. “Our members are willing to engage in worthy discussions over how those who abuse power are held accountable, but not at the expense of unfairly burdening the men and women who are willing to make their own sacrifices to keep us safe,” Straub said. Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives currently hold a 16-seat majority and a 4-seat majority in the Senate, meaning that the legislation which was proposed by Democrats would need substantial support from both of the major parties.

Mayor Bill Peduto voiced support for the proposal, remarking, “The law is the law, but that does not mean it is just, and I believe that what state officials are looking to do is to make a more just law.”

Local criminal justice reform organization Alliance for Police Accountability has organized a day-long bus trip to Harrisburg on April 30 to support the proposed legislation in a rally at the Capitol. A registration form is available at bit.ly/BusForAntwon.

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