After George Floyd´s death in Minneapolis, and the subsequent trial and conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin, the Central Pennsylvania Police Department has examined their policies and practices in order to improve its service.
According to a Pennlive report, some departments have moved to ban chokeholds, except in situations requiring the use of deadly force. A few, including Harrisburg, now have policies that require a police officer to intervene and report any cases of unjustified use of force by a fellow officer.
Additionally, at least one Dauphin County department has started keeping statistics on people its officers encounter in an attempt to ensure all are treated equitably. Other departments now require de-escalation and implicit-bias training to their officers.
State lawmakers recently passed into law a bill to create a database that holds information on disciplinary actions and separation records of all police officers in the state, and to require all departments to check the database when hiring. More statewide reforms related to Central Pennsylvania Police policies have been proposed.
The Department’s Director of Community Relations Blake Lynch, who is heading the new Community Services Division, said Harrisburg is in the process of hiring community service aides for a new program aimed to help the police in matters such as illegal dumping or loud neighbor complaints that may not require an officer. They will also act as go-betweens with the community and the police.
The city is also creating a law enforcement citizens’ advisory board, whose members will share information about police with the community, and inform police know what policies are working within the community and what needs to be changed.
In addition, Harrisburg police have been reviewing and updating their policies and posting them online for the public to see.
Process of reforming
Central Pennsylvania activists say those changes are just the first steps down a long road toward building trust between the police and people of color.
“I do believe they (police departments) are in the process of reforming,” said Nancy La Vigne, executive director of the Council on Criminal Justice’s Task Force on Policing, a nonpartisan organization that works to advance understanding of criminal justice policy choices. “I just think that process is slower than anyone would like to see and there are substantial barriers to reforms yielding their intended impacts.”