Pennsylvania Addresses Police Shortage with New Bill: Physical Fitness Standards for Enrollment Lowered

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PENNSYLVANIA — A new law in Pennsylvania aims to tackle the growing shortage of police officers in the state. House Bill 863, which recently passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate, has now been signed by the governor.

The bill, advocated by state Rep. Dan Williams, D-Chester, amends Title 53 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes. It modifies the physical fitness standards required for enrollment in a municipal police academy in Pennsylvania, making it easier for potential recruits to begin their training. However, the original fitness standards must still be met for an individual to be employed as a police officer in the state.

This move comes in response to a significant increase in retirements and resignations among police officers, as reflected in a 2021 national survey conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum. The study reported a 45% rise in retirements and an 18% surge in resignations compared to the previous year. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office also reported approximately 1,300 open police positions across the state.

“Vacancies in the local police hurt our communities and put us all at risk,” said Williams, who represents several districts in Chester County. “This measure will give our local police departments a tool to help solve their vacancies, but is only a piece of the puzzle as we need to do more.”

House Bill 863, now Act No. 37 of 2023, marks a notable step towards addressing the police shortage in Pennsylvania. While it is seen as a positive move, stakeholders agree that more initiatives are needed to fully address the issue.

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