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Some Pennsylvania Courts, Including Carbon County, Are Not Using Police Misconduct Laws To Check If Probation Officers Are Bad Cops

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At least three Pennsylvania counties do not check new probation officers against statewide police misconduct databases or upload current misconduct records, thus preventing rogue officers from leaving jobs Laws aimed at this are further weakened.

The Cameron, Carbon, and Elk county district courts have denied using the database based on guidance received from the Pennsylvania State Courts’ Office of Management.

A spokesperson for the agency was told by attorneys for the City Police Board of Education and Training, the part of the Pennsylvania Police Department tasked with implementing the program, that the participation of probation officers is voluntary.

“That information has been provided to all presidential justices,” AOPC communications director Stacey Witalek wrote in an email.

In 2020, Pennsylvania legislators passed. Act 57 In response to widespread protests against police brutality. Among other things, the law requires states to keep records of law enforcement officers who have been reprimanded or fired for certain crimes, and hiring agencies must perform checks against that database in advance.

But the database, once hailed as a national model, has since its inception been riddled with loopholes that raise serious questions about its ability to flag potentially problematic cops. There is no enforcement mechanism for non-compliance. Only certain categories of fraud are tracked. Also, records are only uploaded to the database when an officer leaves the company. It will not be uploaded if the officer is employed with a warning or suspension.

In addition, the database does not contain pre-implementation records, and the database only contains information about officers when misconduct occurred while they were employed in Pennsylvania.

That restriction was central to the July 2022 hiring by Tioga District of the police officer who shot dead 12-year-old Tamir Rice. A Spotlight PA survey found that The law would not have flagged that officer upon hiringdespite false allegations by then-Attorney General and Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro, who championed Act 57.

The latest interpretations governing probation officers appear to contradict the law, and state police spokespersons have provided conflicting information about their status.

The law defines law enforcement officers as “peace officers” and points to state criminal laws for doing so. meaningit defines them as “persons conferred by law on the duty to maintain public order or to arrest for a crime, whether that duty extends to all crimes or is limited to particular crimes.” ” explains.

Probation officers work under local court supervision and are paid their salaries by the county.Pennsylvania Judiciary Code State A probation officer is “declared to be a peace officer” and has powers, including the ability to arrest anyone.

State Police spokesperson Miles Snyder acknowledged that county probation officers “are expressly mandated as ‘peace officers'” but that they are subject to the Misconduct Act. did not directly state that there was, and did not confirm or deny the training committee’s advice to the court.

“Determining whether [probation officers] Participation in Act 57 is for their employment agency,” he wrote.

Several county and state elected officials said they were skeptical of the court’s decision and worried that problematic law enforcement officials would go unnoticed.

“No police department or police chief in Pennsylvania wants to accidentally hire a law enforcement officer with a history of egregious misconduct,” Carbon County Commissioner Chris Lukasevic told a public conference in January. rice field. “We have to take these steps to prevent that from happening.”

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Philadelphia Democratic Rep. Chris Love, whose law was incorporated into Act 57, said the law:dilution” During negotiations. He told Spotlight PA in an email that the required database checks apply to probation officers and that violations “boldly defy clear statutory requirements.”

Carbon County Court Common Petition Chief Judge Roger Nanovic cited ambiguity in the law as one of the reasons probation officers were ruled not covered. At a public meeting in December, he called the law “a very poorly drafted law.”

Elk County and Cameron County Common Court of Appeals District Court Administrator Leanne Kovach provided a similar rationale to Elk County Chief Clerk Pat Straub, according to an email obtained by Spotlight PA. Straub questioned the decision and feared that failure to comply could expose the county to liability.

Carbon County Commissioner Lukasevich is challenging the district court’s opt-out decision. He told his Spotlight PA that the basis is not substantiated by any legal decision and contradicts the county’s previous and current attorneys’ interpretations.

Lukasevich said at a January commissioners’ meeting, “I know there are references to laws that are not perfect. Should imperfect laws be ignored? not because we have a moral responsibility to do the right thing.”

Spotlight PA’s Danielle Ohl contributed to the report.

support this journalism Help energize local news in north central Pennsylvania. spotlightpa.org/statecollegeThe spotlight PA is foundation and readers like you Those working in public service journalism with accountability and results.

https://www.mcall.com/news/pennsylvania/mc-nws-pa-probation-officers-misconduct-20230131-x4ms4ro6sfcovnbkccepgo5ao4-story.html#ed=rss_www.mcall.com/arcio/rss/category/news/pennsylvania/ Some Pennsylvania Courts, Including Carbon County, Are Not Using Police Misconduct Laws To Check If Probation Officers Are Bad Cops

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