Floyd protests prompt Pa. to review police policies

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — In the wake of protests over the death of George Floyd, cities across the country are taking a closer look at police reforms.

Minneapolis — where Floyd was seen on video struggling to breathe, as an officer knelt on his neck — is promising to dismantle its department. Pennsylvania has adopted reforms as well.

In recent days, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced sweeping reforms, taken in part from former President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. It was also recommended by a statewide coalition of black state, city and municipal leaders.

“It’s about breaking the FOP stronghold” — Fraternal Order of Police, the police union — “because the police chief should be able to be the police chief,” explained attorney Kevin Harden, a former Philadelphia assistant district attorney, who acted as an adviser for the police reforms proposed by the group. 

Harden said a big problem is that police chiefs can fire an officer for misconduct, but the unions help them get their jobs back.

“They operate with impunity,” he said. “It’s almost like they have diplomatic impunity.”

Wolf adopted reforms like the creation of a deputy inspector general to review fraud, waste and misconduct within law enforcement, as well as a racial and ethnic disparities subcommittee, and a state law enforcement advisory commission. 

Keir Bradford-Grey, chief of the Defender Association of Pennsylvania, said the new commission will have teeth.

“It’s already been proven: Police cannot police police,” she said. 

David Kennedy, president of the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, denounced the changes as an “attack” on law enforcement.