Rabb seeks support for interdepartmental police hiring reform bill

Coincides with not guilty verdict of trial for ex-cop charged with killing unarmed black teen

HARRISBURG, March 26 – State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., today announced he is currently seeking co-sponsors for his forthcoming legislation that would crack down on police violence and misconduct by making it harder for “pariah police” to job-hop across Pennsylvania.

Rabb’s circulation of the co-sponsorship memorandum comes in the wake of a not guilty verdict in the trial of Michael Rosfeld, the ex-East Pittsburgh cop charged with shooting and killing 17-year-old Antwon Rose II, who was unarmed. 

Rosfeld previously had been dismissed with cause from the Pittsburgh University Police Department a few months before joining the East Pittsburgh Police Department.

“This officer’s knee-jerk reaction in this incident was illogical and tragically ended the life of a young black man. It could have been prevented had the officer’s previous transgressions been thoroughly investigated before he bounced from one police department to another,” Rabb said. “Police officers are supposed to be well trained to protect and serve in any given incident. The commonwealth must help ensure police departments secure as much relevant information as possible on anyone who is looking to join their ranks.”

Rabb said his legislation, which is modeled after a similar law in Michigan, would require law enforcement agencies to keep detailed personnel records that include all criminal, civil and ethics substantiated complaints, as well as the reason and circumstances surrounding an officer leaving a job. 

The Attorney General’s Office would maintain these separation records in a database that law enforcement agencies would be required to search before hiring an officer.

“There needs to be more transparency and accountability in the process of adding new officers to any law enforcement agency. ‘Pariah police’ further degrade the public trust, endanger their fellow officers and make communities less safe. Police officers deserve to know if their new partners don’t have employment histories as problematic as some of the people they’ve arrested,” Rabb explained. “By creating a confidential database managed by the Attorney General’s Office containing the employment separation records of police, the law enforcement community statewide will have a more comprehensive and data-rich context to determine who’s coming through their employment pipeline.”  

Rabb added that under his bill, if a law enforcement agency chooses to hire an officer who separated from his or her last job due to a pattern of substantive allegations, complaints or charges related to excessive force, harassment, theft, discrimination, sexual abuse or sexual misconduct, the department would be required to issue a public notice 14 days before taking formal action to hire the officer. The department also would have to file a report with the Attorney General’s Office explaining its reasoning for the hire.