BRISTOL BOROUGH, Pa. (CBS) — It’s a scene that shook the country, former police officer Derek Chauvin killing George Floyd. Now police in our area are making changes in the aftermath of the murder conviction.
Police chiefs say they’re demanding more accountability from their officers, especially if they see violations of department policies.
Two suburban police chiefs say there has been an emphasis on racial bias training over the past year — one of the key changes they have seen in a profession facing intense pressure — but that more needs to be done to standardize policies across Pennsylvania.
Two chiefs with decades of experience, one very similar message — the death of George Floyd and the trial of Chauvin have changed how they work.
“It’s always in the back of their mind now,” Bristol Borough Chief of Police Steven Henry said.
“Policing, in general, is evolving. It has to continue to evolve,” Haverford Township Chief of Police John Viola said.
But change isn’t uniform under commonwealth law.
“In police departments in Pennsylvania, each police department has their own individual policies unlike other states, such as the state of New Jersey,” Henry said.
Police leaders in Bucks County have taken steps to standardize practices countywide, the first to do so.
“We wanted to make sure that our uniform standards of use of force, no chokeholds, shooting at moving vehicles, those type of things, that everybody is on the same page,” Henry said.
In Haverford Township, an accredited force through the Chiefs of Police Association, they’ve enacted a duty to intervene.
“That requires a police officer, if he sees another police officer doing something wrong, even if it’s stealing a stick of gum or a situation like George Floyd, he has a duty to stop that action or report that action,” Viola said.
Despite these changes meant to improve safety for both officers and the community, recruiting is difficult.
“Six or seven years ago, we would get 2-300 to take a test. Last time we barely broke 100,” Viola said.
To that note, Haverford Township has also dropped the requirement for the six-month and roughly $6,000 out-of-pocket police academy training, hoping that helps to attract more and diverse candidates.
Still, they say, the only thing they can control for now is doing good work and the right thing every day and letting their actions speak for themselves.
CBS3’s Alicia Roberts reports.