Nanticoke, July 12, 2021 – State Senator John Yudichak (I-Luzerne/Carbon) and State Senator Marty Flynn (D- Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) announced today that they have introduced Senate Bill 814, also known as Officer John Wilding’s Law. Officer Wilding was a member of the Scranton Police Department who died on July 12, 2015 as a result of injuries he sustained in the line of duty.
“Officer Wilding was a rising star in the Scranton Police Department who was tragically killed six years ago today,” said State Senator John Yudichak. “John Wilding is a hero who gave his life in service to others, and in his memory, Senator Flynn and I have introduced legislation to help ensure that no other member of our law enforcement family has to endure what Officer Wilding’s family has gone through over the past six years.”
“Officer Wilding was doing his job, very close to my district office, when his life was tragically cut short,” said State Senator Marty Flynn. “He was described as passionate and dedicated, almost never taking a day off. He worked hard to protect Scranton, yet our law fell short in protecting him. SB 814 honors his legacy and the awful tragedy that could have been prevented if a law was in place to prohibit fleeing from an officer by foot.”
When individuals flee from police officers attempting to lawfully place them under arrest, they create a risk of harm not just to police but to innocent bystanders and themselves. Existing statute currently prohibits fleeing from an officer in a vehicle and struggling with an officer attempting to place an individual under lawful arrest, however the statute is silent with respect to fleeing an officer on foot and placing the officers or innocent bystanders at risk of injury. This bill will create a new offense of “Evading Arrest or Detention by Foot.” It is modeled after a similar statute in the state of Texas.
“On the night of my son’s death, he was running to back up his fellow officers, and this bill is his opportunity to do that one last time,” said Mary Wilding, the mother of Officer Wilding. “I don’t want another mother to feel the same way I have felt since that day.”
Officer Wilding was a 2004 graduate of Mid Valley Secondary Center in Throop and attended Pennsylvania State University. He was a 2012 graduate of the Act 120 Municipal Police Officers Training Program at Lackawanna College before joining the Scranton Police Department in April 2014.
“As one of Officer Wilding’s field training officers, I can personally say Officer Wilding was well respected by not only his fellow officers but the community where he policed,” said Detective Sergeant David Mitchell of the Scranton Police Department and Financial Secretary of the EB Jermyn FOP Lodge 2. “This legislation will go a long way to help with officer safety and the safety of the general public who are put at risk by fleeing offenders.”
Last session, this bill unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee as SB 1085. After receiving feedback from advocates and officers around the state, language has been included to further provide for the protection of police animals in the event an individual is evading arrest. The new language would create a separate offense for injuring a police animal while a person is evading arrest. Officer Wilding had been pursuing a position in the Scranton Police Department as a K9 officer and this change will further assist in the protection of the animals that serve our communities.
“The tragic death of Officer Wilding shed a light on what is a glitch in the law regarding the injury or death of an officer, to include a K9 officer or dog, resulting from a foot pursuit.,” said Don Williams, President of Voices of JOE. “There are multiple instances on record where law enforcement officers have been injured pursuing an offender who is evading arrest on foot, yet there is not statute to charge them with a felony. This bill will rectify that glitch and be a proper memory to Officer Wilding.”
Senate Bill 814 has bipartisan support and has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Cosponsors include Senators Boscola, Brewster, Baker, Aument, Langerholc, Browne, Stefano, Santarsiero, and Regan.
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