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Lawmakers advance proposals on police hiring, training

June 16, 2020 GMT
People gather near the statue of Christopher Columbus at Marconi Plaza, Monday, June 15, 2020, in the South Philadelphia neighborhood of Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
People gather near the statue of Christopher Columbus at Marconi Plaza, Monday, June 15, 2020, in the South Philadelphia neighborhood of Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
People gather near the statue of Christopher Columbus at Marconi Plaza, Monday, June 15, 2020, in the South Philadelphia neighborhood of Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
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People gather near the statue of Christopher Columbus at Marconi Plaza, Monday, June 15, 2020, in the South Philadelphia neighborhood of Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
1 of 11
People gather near the statue of Christopher Columbus at Marconi Plaza, Monday, June 15, 2020, in the South Philadelphia neighborhood of Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Two bills to change how police are hired and trained were approved unanimously on Monday by a Pennsylvania House committee.

Action on the proposals was taken a week after black state representatives commandeered the speaker’s dais and disrupted House business to pressure majority Republicans to take action on stalled bills involving how police interact with people.

The Judiciary Committee voted for a measure that would mandate thorough background checks for law enforcement officers and require applicants’ former employers to provide information on their job history, including disciplinary actions.

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The Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Commission would operate an electronic database that shows why officers have left employment, including substantiated cases of misconduct. Police agencies would be required to check the database before hiring an officer.

The committee also approved a measure that would mandate training of officers for how to recognize and report child abuse, and how to interact with people of various racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds.

It also would require annual training on the use of force, including how to deescalate conflicts. Every two years, officers would have to undergo training on cultural awareness and implicit bias.

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A supervisor for family court in Philadelphia who was recorded saying he doesn’t care about black lives as he tore down “Black Lives Matter” signs was fired from his job.

A family court spokesman confirmed the man in the video worked as a writ-server supervisor and has been terminated.

Video shared widely on Instagram over the weekend showed Michael Henkel, 61, ripping down the signs that were hanging on a fence at Columbus Square Park. He tells bystanders he “can do whatever I want” and when a woman says “Black Lives Matter,” he responds with “not to me they don’t.”

A message was left at a phone number listed for Henkel.