Pennsylvania State Senate Votes on Legislation Honoring Scranton Police Officer John Wilding

Harrisburg, July 6, 2022 Legislation introduced by Senator John Yudichak (I-Luzerne/Carbon), Senator Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne/Wyoming/Susquehanna/Wayne/Pike) and Senator Marty Flynn (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) in honor of a fallen Scranton police officer John Wilding received bipartisan support today, passing the Senate by a vote of 35-15 on final passage and concurrence of an amendment from the House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 814 would strengthen the crimes code by adding penalties for fleeing an officer by foot to evade arrest.

Almost seven years ago, Scranton Police Officer John Wilding lost his life in pursuit of suspects, who fled the crime scene to evade arrest.

“The men and women who protect and serve our communities as first responders, like Officer John Wilding, have a right to have their lives protected by the law,” said State Senator Yudichak. “When individuals intentionally and recklessly flee from police officers attempting to lawfully place them under arrest, they put at great risk the lives of police officers and innocent citizens.”

“I am very pleased that the Senate passed Wilding’s Law and voted to help keep Pennsylvania’s law enforcement safe. These brave men and women put their lives on the line every day for us, and we need to do everything we can to deter criminals from putting them in further danger,” said State Senator Flynn. “I hope this brings a sense of justice and a measure of peace to the Wilding family, and hopefully this will prevent tragedies like this from happening in the future.”

“We have an obligation to provide every safeguard possible to the dedicated men and women facing unforeseen risks as they work to fight crime and keep our families and neighborhoods safe,” said State Senator Lisa Baker. “This legislation helps to better protect law enforcement officers in the future, while also honoring the impactful life of Officer Wilding and his commitment to serving and protecting others.”

Officer Wilding died on July 12, 2015 as a result of injuries he sustained in the line of duty.

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. Senate Bill 814 will create a new offense of “Evading Arrest or Detention by Foot.” It’s modeled after a similar statute in the state of Texas.

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.

“The 7th anniversary of my son’s line of duty death is right around the corner. I can think of no better way to honor and remember him than the passage of the Officer John Wilding bill – Senate Bill 814,” said Officer Wilding’s mother, Mary Wilding. “This bill provides greater justice for police officers and K-9’s seriously injured or killed in the line of duty due to injuries that occur during a foot pursuit. My son is still so very missed and loved. Let the passage of this bill show that some good can come out of our terrible loss. This is for John and all those he considered his brothers and sisters in blue. He was so proud to stand among them. Let him back them one last time.”

 “Voices of JOE, a group that advocates for Justice and Safety of law enforcement officers strongly believes that the punishment handed down by the court in the death of Scranton Patrolman John Wilding did not rise to the level of severity of the crime, nor did it in any way offer justice to the Wilding family,” said Don Williams, President, Voice of JOE. “We are hopeful that after several years of fighting for Senate Bill 814, it will be signed into law. Officer Wilding cannot be replaced, but at least in some measure this bill can see that justice is served for our officers and the Wilding family moving forward.”

During the 2019-2020 legislative session, the previous version of the legislation unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. After receiving feedback from advocates and officers around the state, language was included to further provide for the protection of police animals in the event an individual is evading arrest.

The State House of Representative recently amended and passed Senate Bill 814 with a vote of 127-73. The bill was amended to include restitution in a case in which a defendant is convicted of a violation under subsection (a); the defendant will then need to make restitution to the agency or individual owning the police animal for veterinary bills, for replacement costs of the animal if it is disabled or killed and for the salary of the animal’s handler for the period of time the handler’s services are lost to the agency.

Senate Bill 814 will now go to Governor Wolf’s desk to be signed into law.


Brad Hurley:

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