– The members of the House Select Committee on Restoring Order who attended the committee’s first two hearings released the following statements Friday:
Chairman John Lawrence (R-Chester/Lancaster):
“The House Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order was given a broad mandate by a bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives to explore the root causes of historic violent crime in Philadelphia and work to find solutions. Over the course of the last two days, we heard powerful testimony from families who have lost loved ones to violent crime, as well as expert insight into acceptable practices and the law.
“What remains clear, is that it would be a dereliction of duty for the duly elected members of the General Assembly to not act in some fashion to ensure our laws are enforced, that local officials not enforcing those laws are held accountable, and that Philadelphians can live in safe neighborhoods.”
Rep. Amen Brown (D-Philadelphia):
“I am glad the Select Committee came to Philadelphia to keep the focus of these hearings where it belongs: on the victims of violent crime and those with the least access to power. The committee also gained valuable insight into areas where the Philadelphia district attorney breached the core obligations of his office, including the duty to properly inform grand juries of all relevant law, without intentional obstruction. The committee also learned about a district attorney’s legal obligation for candor in the courtroom as an officer of the court.
“Importantly, we learned that while district attorneys have broad discretion, that discretion is certainly not unlimited. Use of prosecutorial discretion is illegal if applied with unlawful discrimination, including where that discretion is used not to prosecute certain favored communities, resulting in disproportionate prosecutions in others.
“I am glad the committee heard we are justified as duly elected members of the General Assembly to pursue available remedies under the Pennsylvania Constitution to hold local officials accountable, including district attorneys, when they go outside the bounds of their discretion.”
Rep. Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks):
“The heart-wrenching stories we heard from the mothers of those who have lost their lives due to violent crime in Philadelphia continued to put the work of this committee in perspective. Philadelphians deserve safe neighborhoods. Preventable tragedies should not occur because some improperly use their discretion to not enforce the law.
“The testimony from non-partisan, unbiased experts also helped develop our understanding of the limits of local control, the statistical impact of choices made by officials in Philadelphia, and what is needed to ensure proper training in order for our laws to be enforced to the fullest extent possible.
“I look forward to the committee continuing its work to find potential solutions to the problems of crime and violence in Philadelphia and, where necessary, hold local officials accountable.”
Rep. Torren Ecker (R-Adams/Cumberland):
“The testimony provided by victims of crime, their families and experts was eye-opening and informative for the work of this committee. We remain concerned about the improper use of discretion from local elected officials who decide to not enforce the laws the Legislature have worked to enact to keep Pennsylvanians safe.
“In fact, due to testimony from experts before the committee, it has become clear that the Pennsylvania Constitution preserves a constitutional check on this misuse of power. The elected members of the General Assembly remain empowered with the ability to remove from office a prosecutor whose choices dishonor the law he is charged to enforce, and thus dishonor those victimized by offenders.”