Senate Passes Key Police Reform Measures Says Killion

Legislation bans the use of chokeholds and requires written use-of-force policies

The Pennsylvania Senate today passed the first two pieces of law enforcement legislation since the death of George Floyd noted Senator Tom Killion (R-Chester and Delaware) who co-sponsored and voted for both measures, Senate Bill 1205 and Senate Bill 459.

“The death of George Floyd was an outrage,” said Killion. “The tragedy put a spotlight on our need to examine the way law enforcement interacts with those they have pledged to protect and serve.”

Senate Bill 1205, sponsored by Senator Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) prohibits the use of chokeholds except in situations when the use of deadly force is permitted. The legislation defines chokeholds as “any physical maneuver which restricts an individual’s ability to breathe for the purposes of incapacitation.”

Senate Bill 459, sponsored by Senator Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) requires municipal law enforcement departments to adopt a use-of-force policy and to train officers on procedures allowed under the policy. Further, it requires those departments to report use of force events to the state police when they occur.

“It is critical to ban chokeholds except in circumstances where another life is under imminent threat,” said Killion. “And it is disconcerting formal use-of-force policies were not already required in the commonwealth.”

Killion noted that as a member of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, he participated in a comprehensive hearing last week on policing reforms and racial equality issues. This hearing provided background information on the need for the two bills passed by the full Senate.

The Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police did not oppose either piece of legislation. Both bills now go to the House of Representatives where they will be referred to a committee.

“These are commonsense measures needed in Pennsylvania, and I’m glad they passed with overwhelming bipartisan support” said Killion.

In an effort to continue a dialogue on racial issues, Killion is meeting this week with minority faith leaders and community leaders in the City of Chester on racial equality issues. 

“We must continue working to ensure the equitable treatment of all people regardless of the color of their skin and look to enact other reforms in our state,” Killion said.