Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg to move forward with proposed police board, looks to make amendments

Soon enough, Harrisburg residents will see just how much sway they have over a proposal to create a police advisory board in the city.

After weeks of town hall meetings, residents can expect to see changes to the legislation that would create the board, said City Council member Ausha Green, chair of council’s public safety committee.

“We, as a council, can make amendments to craft this bill into something that is more representative of what the citizens of Harrisburg would like to see,” she said.

At a legislative session Tuesday night, Green said that council will discuss Bill 8, which calls for the board, at an upcoming council work session on Sept. 15.

The bill, as it now stands, is focused on improving relations between the community and the Harrisburg Bureau of Police.

However, many residents who spoke at three recent town hall meetings said that they wanted the board to have greater authority to hold police accountable.

“We heard repeatedly, the need for the police advisory board to have more powers, including the power to subpoena and the power to make recommendations for discipline of officers,” she said.

At the meetings, city Solicitor Neil Grover expressed doubt that council could effectively grant the proposed board subpoena power. According to Grover, issuing subpoenas could be a lengthy and possibly ineffective process. He added that there would need to be reform on a statewide and national level for that change to happen.

At the town hall meetings, residents criticized other elements of the proposed bill, including requirements for board members to undergo training and to participate in ride-alongs with police, Green added. Some also disagreed with the proposal that police Commissioner Thomas Carter would sit as a non-voting board member.

Green said that town hall participants most wanted a review board focused much more on police accountability.

Council plans to take these criticisms into account as they move forward with making amendments to the bill, Green said.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse said he would sign Bill 8 in whatever form council approves.

“We need to seize the moment to ensure we get this bill and the formation of this committee right, and that we continue to bring true public safety reform to our city,” Green said.

To watch City Council’s Tuesday legislative session, visit their YouTube channel. For more information and dates of upcoming council meetings, visit http://harrisburgpa.gov/city-council/.

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