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Allegheny

State Sen. Costa plans legislation to address concerns over police use of lethal force

Bob Bauder
| Friday, July 6, 2018, 6:00 p.m.
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, talks with Tribune-Review editors and reporters in 2015.
Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, talks with Tribune-Review editors and reporters in 2015.

In the wake of a police officer shooting and killing an unarmed teen last month, state Sen. Jay Costa plans to introduce legislation that would require municipalities to adopt policies for use of deadly force, provide cultural training for officers and create a central database for storing individual officer employee histories.

Costa, D-Forest Hills, noted that East Pittsburgh had no formal policies and procedures when Officer Michael Rosfeld shot Antwon Rose, 17, of North Braddock three times in the back on June 19 as the teen ran from a car stopped by police.

East Pittsburgh swore Rosfeld in as an officer on the day of the shooting, and Costa said the Mon Valley borough had no way of knowing Rosfeld's past disciplinary history when it hired him.

Costa's bill would seek to create a statewide database containing police officer employment histories, including disciplinary action and complaints filed against an officer, and make it accessible to municipalities seeking to hire police.

“For example, when East Pittsburgh looked and interviewed this person, there was no place for them to go to see what his track record had been and Pitt was under no obligation to forward that information either onto them or onto anybody else,” Costa said.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. has charged Rosfeld, 30, of Penn Hills with homicide. Rosfield also faces a lawsuit filed by two men who claim he fabricated evidence when he arrested them while working as a University of Pittsburgh police officer in 2017 after an incident at an Oakland bar.

Zappala's office dismissed the charges Rosfeld filed against the pair. An attorney representing the men said Rosfeld left the university as a direct result of an investigation into the arrest.

The legislation would seek to empower the state attorney general to investigate all deadly shootings by police.

“It takes it out of the realm of the local district attorney, and I think that would give folks a better comfort level,” Costa said.

He said he would look to the Pennsylvania Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Commission to formulate required policies for municipal police departments statewide and mandate additional cultural and diversity training for officers, including annual refresher training.

“What we learned in this case was that East Pittsburgh really had no written formal policies and procedures on how to deal with police officer shootings,” Costa said.

Costa has scheduled a legislative hearing for July 17 at Hosanna House in Wilkinsburg that will include discussions by police experts, including Pittsburgh police Chief Scott Schubert and Allegheny County police Superintendent Coleman McDonough.

Costa said he expects to introduce the bill in the coming weeks but said it wouldn't likely come up for a vote before early 2019.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbauder@tribweb.com.

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