Nanticoke, July 26, 2022 – Legislation introduced by Senator John Yudichak (I-Luzerne/Carbon), Senator Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne/Wyoming/Susquehanna/Wayne/Pike) and Senator Marty Flynn (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) in honor of a fallen Scranton police officer John Wilding was officially enacted into law in the Commonwealth on Sunday, July 17, 2022.
Today, officials gathered at the Scranton Police Headquarters in front of the department’s Fallen Officers’ Memorial to celebrate Senate Bill 814 – the Officer John Wilding Law. The bill would strengthen the crimes code by adding penalties for fleeing an officer by foot to evade arrest. Seven years ago, Scranton Police Officer John Wilding lost his life in pursuit of suspects, who fled the crime scene to evade arrest.
After gaining final passage in the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives on July 7, 2022, Senate Bill 814 formally became Act 95 of 2022 on July 17, 2022.
“Today’s event is about honoring the life of Scranton Police Officer John Wilding with legislation that truly makes a difference and better protects the men and women who protect and serve our communities as first responders. Our law enforcement officers have a right to have their lives protected by the law,” said State Senator Yudichak. “The purpose of this legislation is to help ensure that no other member of our law enforcement family has to endure what Officer Wilding’s family has gone through over the past seven years.”
“Now that Senate Bill 814 has become law, I am pleased that the lawmakers who helped to push this bill across the finish line will be joining the Wilding family to recognize the life and legacy of Officer John Wilding,” said State Senator Flynn. “I’m hopeful that this law will bring a sense of justice to Officer Wilding’s family, and I’m happy it will give Pennsylvania’s law enforcement more of the resources and protection they need to effectively perform their duties.”
“Whenever a criminal act contributes to the death of a law enforcement officer, we must make certain that state law contains sufficient penalty for such an offense,” said State Senator Baker. “The loss of Officer John Wilding was an unfortunate tragedy that shook the community. We honor his service and sacrifice through legislation that will offer greater protection to law enforcement going forward.”
Officer Wilding died on July 12, 2015 as a result of injuries he sustained in the line of duty.
Existing statute currently prohibits fleeing from an officer in a vehicle and struggling with an officer attempting to place an individual under lawful arrest, however the statute is silent with respect to fleeing an officer on foot and placing the officers or innocent bystanders at risk of injury. Senate Bill 814 will create a new offense of “Evading Arrest or Detention by Foot.” It’s modeled after a similar statute in the state of Texas.
“It is remarkable to see the legacy of Officer John Wilding enshrined in a crime bill. SB 814 makes it a crime to take flight from the police on foot and imposes sanctions for causing injury or death to law enforcement or others during their flight,” said Thomas Carroll, Scranton Police Chief. “We are excited to host the key Senate leadership at a special event today to commemorate SB 814 becoming law. We are grateful for their support and dedication to courageous law enforcement officers who engage criminals in high-risk foot pursuits every day.”
Officer Wilding was a 2004 graduate of Mid Valley Secondary Center in Throop and attended Pennsylvania State University. He was a 2012 graduate of the Act 120 Municipal Police Officers Training Program at Lackawanna College before joining the Scranton Police Department in April 2014.
“This effort was started because of loss, a terrible personal loss for me. Because of the death of my son, John, I realized that current Pennsylvania law fell short on protecting our protectors. It was then that I went from worrying about one cop to worrying about so many more,” said Mary Wilding, Officer John Wilding’s mother. “The Officer John Wilding Law rectifies that gap in the current law. I owe a debt of gratitude to so many – Don Williams from Voices of Joe, Senators Yudichak, Aument, Baker and Flynn as well as Representative Welby, among so many others for championing this bill. It was truly a cooperative effort. I hope this law acts as both a deterrent for criminals and justice for injured or killed police officers. This isn’t just about what happened to my son, this is for every police officer and police animal in Pennsylvania.”
During the 2019-2020 legislative session, the previous version of the legislation unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. After receiving feedback from advocates and officers around the state, language was included to further provide for the protection of police animals in the event an individual is evading arrest.
The State House of Representative the amended and passed Senate Bill 814. The bill was amended to include restitution in a case in which a defendant is convicted of a violation under subsection (a); the defendant will then need to make restitution to the agency or individual owning the police animal for veterinary bills, for replacement costs of the animal if it is disabled or killed and for the salary of the animal’s handler for the period of time the handler’s services are lost to the agency.
The Pennsylvania State Senate then followed up by passing the bill on its final passage and in concurrence of the amendment from the House of Representatives.