Freeman introduces bill to let housing authorities set up police departments

HARRISBURG, June 10 – State Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton, has introduced a bill that would let public housing authorities form their own police force.

"Philadelphia and Pittsburgh housing authorities already have this ability under current law, but smaller cities in the state face the same problems with criminal activity that larger cities do," Freeman said. "All public housing authorities should have the ability to set up their own police force in order to better combat crime.

"A public housing police force also would greatly enhance community policing efforts, making public housing projects safer for their residents and their families, especially children."

Under Freeman's bill, the housing authority police officers would patrol public housing projects. They would be required to complete the same course of instruction and accreditation as is required for municipal police officers under state law. Funding for these police forces would come from public housing authority budgets.

While every housing authority would have the option to form a police force under Freeman’s bill, they would not be required to do so.

"Some authorities may choose to simply hire a detective rather than create a full-blown police force," Freeman said. "Either way, they could determine what would be the most appropriate approach to enhancing law enforcement efforts."  

Besides reducing crime and enhancing public safety, Freeman said this bill also would provide a benefit for municipal police departments.

"There are times when criminal activity in public housing projects can stretch municipal police departments thin. Allowing public housing authorities to form their own force would help to free up the municipal police officers so they can address crime in other neighborhoods," he said.

Freeman said the idea for this legislation came from Larry Hendershot, a constituent who previously served on the Easton Housing Authority and is a former police officer.

The bill (H.B. 1323) has been referred to the House Urban Affairs Committee.