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State Police settle Latino profiling suit for $865K

Plus, why even popular bills aren't getting passed in Pa.


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April 7, 2022
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Profiling suit, buried bills, limited liability, house flippers, indoor masks, Tree of Life, and a hoagie contest becomes #HoagieGate. It's Thursday.
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A federal lawsuit alleging the Pennsylvania State Police engaged in a widespread pattern of "unlawful civil immigration enforcement" has been settled for $865,000 and a promise to rewrite departmental policy.

The lawsuit, filed in 2019 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania on behalf of 10 motorists, said troopers from around the state aggressively questioned people of color about their immigration status without cause or justification and unlawfully detained them to investigate further.

The result, the suit argued, was wholesale discrimination and civil rights violations. According to the Associated Press, State Police did not admit wrongdoing but did agree in the settlement to amend their internal policies to forbid troopers from enforcing civil immigration law

All of the employees named in the suit are still working for the law enforcement agency, one of the largest of its kind in the country.

In 2017, the State Police paid $150,000 to settle a separate suit brought by a Latino man who said he was profiled and falsely charged.

THE CONTEXT: The Pennsylvania State Police quietly suspended collections of racial data from traffic stops in 2012 and only resumed the practice nine years later when Spotlight PA reported on the resulting gap.

Spotlight PA's review of pre-2012 data analyzed by researchers at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio revealed a nuanced and sometimes conflicting portrait of the department's interactions with people of color.

While the university's analyses found no consistent evidence that troopers stopped drivers, issued citations, or made arrests based on race, they revealed a persistent problem after stops had occurred: Year after year, the researchers found troopers were roughly two to three times more likely to search Black or Hispanic drivers than white drivers.

At the same time, the researchers concluded, troopers were far less likely to find contraband on Black and Hispanic drivers than white drivers.

Under its relaunched tracking program, the State Police said troopers are collecting data, including the age, gender, race, and ethnicity of drivers and passengers. Troopers will also record the duration of the stop, whether a vehicle search was conducted and, if one was, the results.
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"By the time you're done, it's 'we're doomed' when what the scientist actually said was we need to reduce our carbon emissions 50% within this decade to avoid 1.5 (degrees of) warming, which would be really bad. Two degrees of warming would be far worse ... but not the end of civilization."

Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann on a growing sense of climate 'doomism' that experts worry breeds anxiety and apathy
» BROKEN RULES: Join us Thursday, April 14 at 6 p.m. EST via Zoom for a free discussion on Pa.'s medical release law for state prisoners, who the law impacts, and the strain it places on people in prison, their families, and taxpayers. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org.
Forsythia gone wild in Cumberland County, via Robert S. Send us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
BILL BLOCKS: Committee chairs decide which pieces of legislation get put up for hearings and votes in Pennsylvania's legislature and which don't. It's a tremendous amount of power to wield — too much, critics say. With thousands of bills dying quiet deaths in Harrisburg each year, even those with broad bipartisan support, there is a movement underway to tweak the ground rules in January, via WITF.

DAMAGE CAP: Bills introduced by state Rep. Kate Klunk (R., York) would cap damages awarded to kids hurt in Pennsylvania's child welfare system at $500,000, even when the result of those injuries is a lifetime's worth of medical bills, per Broke in Philly. Supporters say the change will help nonprofit agencies that pay those judgements stay in business amid a shortage. Critics say that's not the real problem.

SWING STRATEGY: A former New York state senator and the co-founder of a Democratic super PAC plan to pour $20 million into dozens of legislative races in three states this fall, and Pennsylvania is one of them. Their goal is to flip at least one legislative chamber in each, CNN reports, with the larger goal of "securing future presidential elections" against partisan attempts to overturn unfavorable results.

MASK ASK: Philly is again recommending indoor mask wearing as COVID-19 cases near the levels that would automatically trigger a formal return of the city's indoor masking rule. WHYY reports the city is averaging 94 new cases a day now, with 48 people hospitalized. Health officials are encouraging the unvaccinated to get vaccinated and urging people to "strongly consider" masks in public indoor spaces.

TRIAL DELAYS: Federal prosecutors in the long-delayed trial of accused Tree of Life gunman Robert Bowers want the proceedings to begin no later than this fall. But Bowers' defense team says it won't be ready before late 2023, TribLIVE reports. A new judge is in charge and navigating the complexities of the death penalty case. Eleven people were killed at the Pittsburgh synagogue in October of 2018.
CASE CLOSED: Journalist Alexis Johnson's discrimination suit against the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has been withdrawn and dismissed. Johnson, a Black woman, was sidelined from Black Lives Matter coverage over a tweet about fan behavior at a Kenny Chesney concert. The paper's related suit against Pittsburgh's Commission on Human Relations was also dropped.

HOAGIE HITS: The Inquirer conducted "an incredibly serious investigation" into its own Italian Hoagie bracket, which was beset by suspicious ballots and voter irregularities. After some intricate work by a crack team of journalists, the paper confirms that the hoagie election has been secured.

SUPERLOAD ALERT: Months after a radioactive superload landed in Lawrence County, another is on the move, this one coming in at 165 tons. It's a transformer that's headed from Venango County to a cryptocurrency mine in Texas. It's expected to pass through Meadville today

OFFICIAL CANDY: The student-led push to make the Hershey Kiss Pennsylvania's official candy is making progress, but GOP state Sen. Dan Laughlin of chocolatier-heavy Erie is emerging as an early foil

GOLDEN AGE: What's the secret to longevity? Josephine "Jo Jo" Goellner should know, after all the Carbon County resident just turned 101. Her secret, according to the Times News: Eating dirt under the Italian sun.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

*This week's theme: Nautical, me hearties
Yesterday's answer: Starboard

Congrats to our daily winners: Bruce B., Pat B., Barbara F., Mike B., Becky C., Craig W., Don H., Judith D., Kevin M., Michelle T., Joyce D., Doris T., Jill K., Chris M., Jill M., Bette G., Susan N.-Z., Karen W., Gary D., Kim C., Kimberly S., Bruce B., Starr B., Beth T., Heidi B., Ted W., Elizabeth W., Dan W., Roseanne M., Nancy S., George S., James B., Dianne K., Marty M., Bill S., David W., Susan R., Art W., Steve H., Al M., Vicki U., Elaine C., Eugene M., Jude M., John A., Ann E., Tish M., Daniel M., John B., and Eddy Z.
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