PLBC meets with Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association

HARRISBURG, Jan. 29 –  The Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, under the direction of Chairwoman Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, D-Phila., met with the leadership of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association this week to discuss legislative priorities for the next few years.

According to PCPA officials, this was the first time they have met with a collective body of legislators to discuss policies and potential legislation.

"This meeting was a great way to open dialogue between law enforcement officials and the PLBC," Brown said. "Recent issues of potential excessive police force in the news have caused concern for the PLBC, as those affected have been predominantly black."

Representing the PLBC, in addition to Chairwoman Brown, were Vice Chair Ed Gainey, PLBC and Democratic Caucus Secretary Rosita Youngblood and Reps. Margo Davidson, Jason Dawkins and Steven Kinsey.

The PCPA was represented by Executive Director Dane Merryman, Chairman Tom King and President Bill Kelly.

Among the most critical proposals discussed was the potential for police officers to wear body cameras while on the job as a way to protect both the public from excessive force as well as the police officers from unjust or unfair claims of violence. The PCPA and PLBC also discussed ways to increase the number of accredited police departments in the commonwealth. Currently, only 100 of the approximately 1,100 departments are fully accredited under current state standards.

"The PCPA is certainly willing to consider the cameras," Brown said. "However, as they pointed out during the discussion, we in the legislature would need to amend Pennsylvania's current wiretap laws and would really need to have a serious discussion about funding, beyond the costs of the cameras themselves. Outfitting every police officer with a body camera would require a significant initial investment and so the finances must be considered in any potential bills.

"This opening dialogue was very positive and I look forward to continuing to discuss the PLBC's concerns and our goal to find mutually beneficial solutions to our needs as well as the PCPA's."