New Pa. bill would change how deadly shootings involving officers are handled

New Pa. bill would change how deadly shootings involving officers are handled

The decision to file charges after an officer-involved shooting lies in the hands of local district attorneys.

But a bill being considered in Harrisburg is looking to take that decision out of their control.

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The bill would require a special prosecutor be appointed in deadly officer-involved incidents.

“It just creates greater trust I think from the community as it relates to that particular incident,” said Sen. Jay Costa (D-Forest Hills), a cosponsor of SB-611.

It’s part of a list of police reforms being considered in Harrisburg, along with a ban on choke holds and limiting when officers can use deadly force.

Defense attorney Pat Thomassey knows the system well. He represented former Officer Michael Rosfeld during his homicide trial last spring that ended with a jury acquitting him in Antwon Rose’s death.

“I think it’s a fairer process if you have unbiased eyes looking at every case,” Thomassey said.

Thomassey said a special prosecutor eliminates perceived bias between police and the district attorney’s office – two agencies that often work together.

Several police reform bills have been on the table for more than a year, but Costa believes this moment will lead to the long sought after change.

“I think we’re now at a different place and time with respect to those groups and they want to see some change take place as well. They recognize that it impacts the ability for them to do their work and for their membership, particularly members doing a good job,” Costa said.

One of those groups Costa referred to is the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.

While not commenting directly on special prosecutors in a statement earlier this month, the group committed to being part of holistic and meaningful change in the criminal justice system.

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