Capitol Beat

State Police officials commission investigation into Philadelphia traffic stop

The weekend incident involved City of Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs Executive Director Celena Morrison and her husband

A Pennsylvania State Police vehicle

A Pennsylvania State Police vehicle Commonwealth Media Services

Pennsylvania State Police officials said Monday that they will launch a full internal investigation following a traffic stop in Philadelphia over the weekend involving a high-ranking Philadelphia official. 

A video posted on social media showed Office of LGBT Affairs Executive Director Celena Morrison and her husband detained during an encounter following a traffic stop on the city’s Vine Street Expressway. Throughout the confrontation, Morrison can be heard saying “That is my husband” and “I work for the mayor!” according to a video posted to X by Fox29’s Steve Keeley.

The video prompted a response from Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker, who has called the clip “very concerning.” 

During a legislative budget hearing in Harrisburg on Monday, officials from the state police told lawmakers that an internal affairs investigation has been launched and the officer involved has been placed on administrative duty as the investigation continues. 

“In reference to the incident, which is just 48 hours old … We’re concerned by the issues that have been raised. We take them very seriously. We have commissioned a full internal affairs investigation headed by two lieutenants brought in from a geographic different area,” Col. Christopher Paris, the commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, told lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee on Monday.

“The trooper involved in the incident has been placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of the investigation, which will be competent, thorough, and passed along to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office for review,” Paris added. 

Parker, in a series of tweets over the weekend, expressed concern and confirmed that Morrison was involved in the traffic stop. The mayor said she would refrain from commenting further until investigations into the incident conclude.

“Earlier today, a Pennsylvania State Police Trooper executed a car stop on the Vine Street Expressway in Philadelphia, reportedly for a Motor Vehicle Code violation. Celena Morrison, the City’s executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs, was in the vehicle that was stopped,” Parker tweeted. “A video circulating on social media that depicts a portion of the incident is very concerning to me, and I will have no further comment until the investigation has been completed.”While budget hearings in the General Assembly are typically reserved for discussions about the budgets of different state agencies, House Appropriations Committee Majority Chair Jordan Harris noted at the outset of the meeting that the traffic stop added an additional level of importance to the day’s budget hearing.

With the incidents that we’ve seen happen in the city of the first class over this weekend, and the disturbing and very troubling video that has circulated on social media, it is extremely important that this hearing is held today to discuss policing, policing protocol and what happens on our streets and highways across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Harris said at the start of the hearing.

The hearing focused on other aspects of the Pennsylvania State Police, its budget and its operations, as well – including the agency’s approach to cannabis and how that could change if lawmakers were to legalize cannabis for recreational use. State police officials said discussions around the agency’s role in a prospective, legalized cannabis marketplace are still in the early stages, but the agency said it would retain its focus on highway safety.

“It has yet to be determined exactly what role we would have in terms of the availability of marijuana … but beyond that, the role that we will have is to maintain the safety on the highways and to be able to still continue to do the enforcement that we do,” said Lt. Col. George Bivens, PSP deputy commissioner of operations.

Republican state Rep. Ryan Warner asked state police officials how the agency would enforce driving under the influence penalties, and whether there are devices similar to a breathalyzer that would allow law enforcement to determine whether a person is inebriated.

“We’re not aware of any technology that allows that to be discerned,” Paris said.