Senate Bill 621 Takes Away Arrest Power in Pennsylvania
Senate Bill 621 was clarified in early July, but one of the unintended consequences that came with it was the restriction of arrest powers for both officers who are directly employed by schools and officers who work through third-party vendors.
- By Kaitlyn DeHaven
- August 16, 2019
In early July, Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation that clarified who was allowed to be armed on Pennsylvania campuses, and who school districts are allowed to hire as security. Now, about a month later, some law enforcement officers are upset by the legislation and one of the unintended consequences it came with – taking away arrest powers.
Since Senate Bill 621 covers both law enforcement security officers who are directly employed by schools and officers who work through third-party vendors, lawmakers were hesitant to give these third-party vendors arrest powers. Legislative Director Erin Marsicano said that the main concern is accountability and was initially raised by the Fraternal Order of Police. However, since the bill oversees both types of security officers, it takes away arrest power from both third-party vendor officers and officers employed by a school directly.
This upcoming year, officers will be able to petition for the ability to carry firearms and to detain people and issue summary citations, but they will not be granted arrest powers.
Marsicano said because of the outrage over the change, senators are working on updating the law to return arrest power in certain cases.
"We recognize the need to do this for the School Police Officers while recognizing the concern raised about third-party vendor employees having police powers," she added.
Although it is unclear what the solution will be, it will be made clearer when the Senate returns to session in the fall.
Kaitlyn DeHaven is the Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.