The Lead

Police accountability panel created by Wolf to hold first meeting Thursday

By: - January 20, 2021 5:03 pm

A commission that’s intended to improve policing practices within state-run law enforcement agencies will have its first public meeting this week, nearly six months after Gov. Tom Wolf created it by executive order. 

The Pennsylvania State Law Enforcement Citizen Advisory Commission will convene at  2 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 21 to hear public comments and approve administrative matters, according to a meeting agenda

The 21-member panel, which will meet quarterly, will broadcast the Thursday meeting online. Members of the public can watch via livestream and register to offer public comments. 

The panel was one of the handful of new police accountability measures Pennsylvania’s state government enacted following the 2020 killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, which sparked a summer of protest against police brutality and racism.

Its members hail from across the state and include clergy, veteran law enforcement agents, attorneys and criminal law experts, according to a roster Wolf released Wednesday.

They’re charged with reviewing policies and procedures of police forces under Wolf’s jurisdiction – including the Pennsylvania State Police, the Capitol Police, and park rangers employed by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.  

The panel will also have the power to review any internal investigations those agencies conduct following allegations of bias or the use of force.

The Citizen Advisory Commission won’t have any oversight over officers employed by local police forces, who make up the bulk of law enforcement professionals in Pennsylvania. 

But Wolf said Wednesday he hopes the panel will improve community relations with the police forces he oversees. 

“This citizen commission is an important step toward addressing the systemic failings that create inequities and to restore trust in law enforcement in all communities,” Wolf said. “It is my hope that the commission improves law enforcement relationships with communities and strengthens the accountability of law enforcement personnel.”

Wolf also announced on Wednesday the appointment of Deputy Inspector General Sha Brown, a York resident and 22-year veteran of the Maryland State Police force. 

Brown’s new role in the Inspector General’s office – which carries a $102,000 annual salary – makes him chair of the Citizen Advisory Commission. The former officer most recently served as a director in Maryland state government managing COVID-19 mandates in congregate care facilities, according to a bio Wolf’s office provided Wednesday.  

Wolf’s state review board is one of the first policing reform measures to take effect following last year’s summer of protests.

The General Assembly also passed a new law creating a confidential, statewide database of police misconduct records, which agencies must use to investigate potential new hires. 

That law is slated to take effect in July 2021, one year after Wolf signed it. 

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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.