Sen. Bob Casey introduces police reform legislation to change how police interact with people with disabilities

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LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) has introduced a pair of policing reform bills focused on how officers engage with people with disabilities.

Casey introduced the bills during a virtual roundtable on Wednesday.

“It’s easy to describe this problem and it’s exceedingly more difficult to solve it, but we’ve got to try,” Casey said.

The bills are the Human-services Emergency Logistics Program (HELP) Act, and the Safe Interactions Act.

The HELP Act got the most discussion on Wednesday. It would give more funding for state and regional 211 systems, which are run by the United Way.

Casey said it’s a way to divert non-emergency calls to service agencies that can help and allow 9-1-1 centers to focus on police, fire, and ambulance calls.

“The federal government can’t check out and hope states and communities do it on their own,” Casey said. “The federal government should provide help where we can.”

Casey said the idea came up after the police-involved shooting of Ricardo Munoz in Lancaster.

The shooting of Munoz happened in September.

The Munoz family said they called crisis intervention, which they say patched them to police.

Kevin Ressler, President and CEO of United Way of Lancaster County, said with the changes Casey is proposing the outcome for the Munoz family would have been different.

“That was not the resolution anyone wanted,” Ressler said. “But our system supports made that moment happen because we did not better approximate options upstream.”

The Safe Interactions Act would provide grants for training for police to interact safely with those who have a mental illness or disability.

Casey acknowledged both bills face uphill battles in Congress.

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