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Slow change after fatal Pa. police shooting

Plus, Spotlight PA offers some strategies to improve your odds of obtaining information officials want to keep secret.


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A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
Friday, March 17, 2023
State College shooting, open records, police pay, high courts, project blocked, Protestant split, and the high cost of a date night. Enjoy the weekend. 

In 2019, a white State College police officer shot and killed Osaze Osagie, a Black man experiencing a mental health crisis. 

It was the first fatal police shooting in department history, and it outraged the community. Calls for change centered around the intersection of policing, mental health, and racial bias.

Four years later, progress implementing the recommendations of multiple reports aimed at making the community a more equitable and safe place to live has been made in some areas but is sluggish in others.

Read more: Police killed Osaze Osagie four years ago. Here’s what has and hasn’t happened since.

THE CONTEXT: Melanie Morrison of the 3/20 Coalition, a local group that advocates for racial and social justice, said local officials have made important changes since Osagie’s death.

The State College Police Department hired a social worker to accompany officers serving 302 mental health warrants — the same kind used in Osagie’s case — and the State College Borough Council created a community police oversight board.

But several recommendations put forth by various experts on policing and mental health have yet to be implemented.

State College Borough Council President Jesse Barlow wrote in an email to Spotlight PA that “we need to follow through all the way."


"So we tend to say that climate change is loading the dice and making springs like the spring of 2023 more likely."

—Alyssa Rosemartin of USA National Phenology Network on the early spring many in Pennsylvania experienced this year
Support Spotlight PA's independent, nonpartisan journalism and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED.
If we raise $25,000 by March 25, every single gift in support of Spotlight PA will be DOUBLED by the Benter Foundation in Pittsburgh. Help Spotlight PA continue its vital accountability and investigative reporting by making a tax-deductible gift and securing your dollar-for-dollar match now.

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UNEQUAL ELECTIONS: Join us and a panel of election experts on Thursday, March 30 from 6-7 p.m. on Zoom for a free discussion on unequal voting policies in the state, how they impact voters, and possible solutions. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

Pittsburgh sunrise, via Donald H. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
A fiery-looking sunrise over houses on a residential street.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.OPEN RECORDS: In honor of Sunshine Week — an annual celebration of access to public information and open government — Spotlight PA offers some strategies to improve your odds of obtaining information that state and local officials want to keep secret. Success isn't guaranteed, but these five tips can improve your odds and make the open records and Right-to-Know process easier to navigate

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.POLICE PAY: An abused state program that allows injured cops to collect their full salaries, largely tax-free, could expand under police union-backed legislation being ushered by former U.S. Marshal — and current Republican state senator from York — Mike Regan. The Inquirer (paywall) reports he wants the program to cover more law enforcement branches, but Philadelphia remains a cautionary tale.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.HIGH COURTS: FiveThirtyEight reports huge sums are being poured into contests for state supreme court seats nationwide — the key legal battlegrounds for contested laws around abortion, elections, and more. Spotlight PA reported in 2021 on the powerful special interests shaping that year's Pennsylvania Supreme Court race. Another is on the ballot this year to replace the late Chief Justice Max Baer.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.PROJECT BLOCKED: A billion-dollar "advanced" recycling plant in Northumberland County has been blocked by the local zoning board after residents complained an eight-story building for sorting plastic waste would spoil their views, per Inside Climate News. Environmental advocates have also opposed the facility and its exemption from having to obtain a pollution-controlling solid waste permit.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.PROTESTANT SPLIT: Almost one-third of the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church's 800-member congregations have taken steps to leave the denomination amid a slow-motion schism over politics, LGBTQ rights, and gay pastors. TribLIVE focuses on two branches in Westmoreland County and found the decisions on next steps aren't always clear-cut.
🏆  TEST TIME: If you’re confident you followed the news closely this week, there’s only one way to prove it: Put your knowledge to the test with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz.

BABY BILLS: Adventures in babysitting are more expensive in Philly, where The Inquirer (paywall) reports parents are shelling out as much as $200 extra per night. U.S. babysitting rates have reportedly outpaced inflation.

PARKING PLAN: Allentown Mayor Matt Tuerk wants $10,000 for a study of the city's parking authority, which he says has been plagued by complaints and has "unchecked power." A city takeover of the authority is possible.

ID CONFIRMED: 1st Lt. William Montgomery of Ford City was 24 in World War II when his plane was hit after a bombing raid on a German airfield and went down in England. His remains have been ID'd 80 years later.

WAX PROBLEM: Over at UPenn, The New York Times (paywall) takes a look at tenured law professor Amy Wax's history of incendiary and racist comments and the continuing student-led calls for her ouster.

LIVE FROM NY: Philly's own Quinta Brunson, creator and star of the ABC hit Abbott Elementary, hosts SNL on April Fools' Day.

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. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Psychedelic

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., John P., Don H., Susan D., Starr B., Fran B., Jane R., Becky C., Eric F., Mike B., Sandra H., Kim C., Barbara F., Lisa H., Kimberly D., Elaine C., Daniel M., Jon W., Elvino M., Ada M., Joel S., Vicki U., Susan N.-Z., Marty M., Bruce B., Tish M., James B., Eddy Z., Dennis M., Joe W., Tom M., Bill S., William Z., Dianne K., Wendy A., Stanley J., and Dan A.
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