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State College Borough Council Unanimously Passes Police Reform, Racial Equality Resolution

The State College Borough Council met Tuesday evening to unanimously pass a resolution supporting police and racial equality reforms.

The resolution, introduced by Councilman Dan Murphy and co-written alongside Councilwoman Deanna Behring, addressed eight of the 10 demands issued by the 3/20 Coalition, a local advocacy group. The council said it couldn’t address the remaining two due to “ongoing litigation.”

The resolution didn’t create any new policy but took steps to address community members’ demands. The council will create a community oversight board to “address discrimination, bias, and racism” in local government and police.

Additionally, the resolution states the oversight board must be funded through current police department funds, which drew criticism from some. Councilman Peter Marshall, who served as Borough Manager from 1986 to 2003, believes diverting funding could result in reduced services and officer layoffs.

“I don’t have a problem with taking some money from the police department budget, but if we’re talking about a lot of money then I do have a problem, because the police department is at the same level now as it was when I was the manager,” Marshall said. “So it hasn’t been growing. They have four shifts they have to fund to do 24-hour policing.”

Other demands addressed in the resolution include:

  • Divestment of firearms during the service of mental health checks and mental health warrants
  • Revision to standard operating procedures to emphasize de-escalation strategies to be used during engagement, and consequences for failure to use those strategies
  • Public access to officer misconduct information and disciplinary history when death results
  • A ban on the use of knee-holds and chokeholds
  • Transparency and the release of policing data regarding policing with special attention to race and ethnicity
  • A reallocation of funding away from the State College Police Department to programs that address root causes of suffering and violence, and provide benefit to public well-being and safety

The council plans to address these demands through revising its budgets, hearing public comment ahead of negotiating its next police contracts, and making policing data more accessible to the public when possible, among others.

Many councilmembers voiced their support for the measures. However, some, including Myers, advocated for taking further action rather than discussion.

“During the last year we’ve taken a little bit of action and we’ve talked a lot,” Myers said. “The time for talking a lot is over. The time now is to act. Even though this is far from perfect, we need to pass this resolution and continue to listen, to learn, and to take action. More action will be needed, that is for sure. There’s a lot of work left to be done, but this is a start.”

The resolution also received support from local advocates, including the 3/20 Coalition. However, community members hope to see additional demands met in the future.

“We are encouraged by their quick response,” 3/20 Coalition Secretary Melanie Morrison told StateCollege.com. “We are encouraged by the depth of that resolution and that he felt compelled to write it. We hope that the work that comes out of it holds true. But those two demands that were left out of the resolution are the ones we are really concerned about today.”

The 3/20 Coalition formed following the death of Osaze Osagie, a 29-year-old Black man shot and killed in March 2019 by State College police serving a mental health warrant. Since then, members have advocated for local law enforcement reform and organized protests in town following the death of George Floyd and countless others.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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