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Pa. politicians want harsher penalties for Russia

Plus, State Police say they can't change who investigates troopers without legislative action. 


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February 25, 2022

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Rebuffed rec, smaller field, displaced families, student leaders, map request, record spending, and how Pa. is responding to Russia's attack on Ukraine
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Pennsylvania State Police troopers who kill or injure someone should not be investigated by their own agency.

That was the recommendation a state oversight panel made last year in response to a 2016 incident in which State Police shot a man in Beaver County after consulting with the local district attorney about whether the action would be legal. That same district attorney later ruled that the trooper’s actions were justified based on a State Police investigation.

The agency has finally responded to the panel's recommendation, claiming such a change would require a change to state law, Spotlight PA reports. 

THE CONTEXT: Currently, if a trooper kills or injures someone, the State Police assign troopers from another jurisdiction to conduct an investigation.

Police accountability experts say there is an inherent conflict of interest when a department involved in a shooting determines whether or not charges should be filed.

State Sen. Art Haywood (D., Montgomery), who has long pushed for more police oversight, submitted a bill in January that would require police to hand fatal use-of-force investigations to other agencies. While his bill would formalize this process, he also believes State Police could comply with the recommendation now.

“I’m not the lawyer for the PSP and they may have a legal analysis that’s consistent with their conclusion, but it’s not consistent with anything that I know,” he told Spotlight PA.
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"I could not guarantee victory, but I could guarantee that I would speak out and carry that message across our state."

Guy Ciarrocchi, president and CEO of the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry, announcing the end of his campaign for governor. See an updated list of candidates.
» DEMAND DIVE: Demand for COVID-19 vaccines is plunging across the country, AP reports. Public health officials cite waning infection rates and pandemic fatigue as factors. Some states are vaccinating as few as hundreds of people per day, down from tens of thousands of shots per day.

» DEADLY MONTH: Though mask mandates across the country are being lifted and case numbers are declining, the omicron wave remains exceptionally deadly, CNN reports. The only other period during the pandemic that was more lethal was the first winter surge, before vaccines.

» COVID CANDY: A chewing gum that could trap coronavirus particles in the oral cavity is being reviewed by the FDA, Scientific American reports. The study detailing the gum was published in March 2021.

To find a COVID-19 vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your zip code to 438829 (GETVAX).
» THE FINAL STRETCH: Join us Thursday, March 3 at 5 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on the court challenges to Pa.'s electoral maps and how they could affect your community. Register for the event here. Have questions for our panelists? Send them to events@spotlightpa.org.
A (creepy) abandoned mid-century ski lodge in Denton Hill State Park. Thanks for the photo, Don H.! Send us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
MAP SHUFFLE: Congressional incumbents and candidates are reacting to the new map picked by the state Supreme Court this week. Democratic State Rep. Summer Lee plans to run in Pittsburgh's 12th despite her home being drawn into a different district. Republican U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, whose district was eliminated, says he won't run in the new 15th where he lives, but instead in the 9th against incumbent Republican Dan Meuser. Members of Congress don't have to live in the district they rep.

PREMATURE REQUEST: Pennsylvania's highest court should allow the state to use its current legislative districts for elections this year as legal challenges play out, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R., Centre) has argued. Wolf administration officials say his request is premature, the AP reports. Benninghoff voted against the new maps and is suing to have them thrown out. 

STILL STUCK: More than 100 families from Montgomery and Chester Counties whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Ida’s floodwaters are still displaced, The Inquirer reports. "I feel like I’m in a hole and I can’t get out of it," a mother of two living in a hotel said. "And it breaks my heart, because I’m trying.”

STUDENT LEADERS: The Washington Post profiled the students from Central York High School who fought against a ban on anti-racist books and educational resources by and about people of color. Now, they’re pushing for a more inclusive education.

NEW RECORD: Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate primary may be the most expensive in state history, The Caucus reports. As of mid-February, candidates and PACs had paid for or reserved more than $32.5 million in TV and radio air time — and Democrats have yet to get on the air.
INVASION RESPONSE: Several members of Pennsylvania's congressional delegation are calling for harsher penalties against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. Gov. Tom Wolf condemned the attack and urged "democratic leaders across the globe to unite and respond decisively to this unjustified and unlawful attack."

FAMILY FEARS: The Inquirer spoke to Philadelphia sisters Vera and Marta Penkalskyj, who fear for their loved ones in Ukraine. “I hope I will make it back there to everyone. A lot of people’s lives are on the line," Marta said.

'VERY WORRIED': The Ukrainian community in Pittsburgh isn’t as large as those in other cities, but it's banding together in this moment of crisis. “Ukrainians, they are a very brave people,” Tatiana Rad said.

STAYING SAFE: Pitt professor Tymofiy Mylovanov recently returned to his native Ukraine in anticipation of the invasion. "We were hoping it wasn't going to come to it, actually," he told the Post-Gazette. "I think about a week ago I started assessing the risk, but before that I was still hoping."

AROUND THE STATE: Here are more dispatches about the invasion from JenkintownCarnegie, Newtown, Philadelphia, and the Pittsburgh region.
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: Literary devices, terms

Yesterday's answer: Bildungsroman 

Congrats to our daily winners: Bonnie R., Pat B., Susan N.-Z., Doris T., Bill C., Don H., Kimberly S., Rebecca H., Judith D., Michelle T., Kim C., Lex M., Susan D., Bill S., and George S.
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