Pennsylvania State Senate approves bill to criminalize fleeing arrest by foot

Pennsylvania State Senate approves bill to criminalize fleeing arrest by foot
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The state senate in Pennsylvania approved a bill Tuesday that would make it a crime for someone to flee from a police officer attempting to arrest them and an added crime if a police dog is hurt during such a pursuit, according to the Associated Press

The penalty for knowingly fleeing arrest increases with the severity of the alleged crime taking place, writes the AP. It also rises if the arresting officer or another person is hurt or killed in the pursuit; if someone dies, the penalty becomes a second-degree felony, according to AP. 

This bill was introduced by senators from northeastern Pennsylvania to honor a fallen police officer from Scranton who died in 2015 while pursuing three 17-year-olds suspected of stealing a vehicle and attempting to rob someone at gunpoint, the AP reports.

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The bill was passed with every Republican state senator and seven of the 21 Democratic senators supporting it; it passed 36-14, according to AP. The bill will next go to the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives for consideration.

The AP reports that police groups are in support of this legislation, and supporters feel that it would help protect officers while they work on the line of duty and potentially risk their lives. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania, on the other hand, has stated that this bill creates unnecessary crimes and criminalizes the “legal and constitutional right to run from law enforcement," according to the AP.

The ACLU put out a statement saying that this law, if passed, could be used to target young, Black men or other people of color who may be fleeing from police, writes the AP. 

State Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) has said to the AP of the police dog provision of the proposed bill that it may unjustly force a person to allow themselves to be attacked by a police dog and suffer injuries.

The provision forbidding people to run from police dogs ignores the “brutal history of the use of dogs in attacking people of color and it makes this bill unconscionable," Street said during a floor debate, according to the AP.