Pennsylvania Moves Toward New Law To Delay Releasing Names Of Officers In Shootings For 30 Days

111px-pennsylvania_state_police129px-philadelphia_police_department_patchWe previously discussed how Dallas Police Chief David Brown quietly changed a rule that would require officers involved in a shooting to wait 72 hours before making a statement. I was highly critical of the change, which treats officers differently from other witnesses to shootings and seeks to avoid contradictions in accounts — difference that might reveal culpability or collusion. Now, Pennsylvania is about to go one better. A new law would prevent the release of the names of officers involved in shootings by 30 days. The bill by Rep. Marina White (R) is designed as a “basic protection from threats” Supporter Rep. Dominic Costa (D) declared, “We are the protectors of our protectors.”

There are good arguments on both sides of this issue.

The prior Philadelphia Chief of Police Charles Ramsey opposed such measures as unnecessary and creating a double standard. After all, the names of other citizens are revealed immediately or shortly after such shootings. Ramsey said “I don’t think you can shoot someone and expect to remain anonymous…and I do think that we have a responsibility as a police agency that work[s] for the people to provide that information, unless there are some extenuating circumstances.”

However, Pennsylvania lawmakers overwhelmingly moved to overrule such objections by a vote in the House of 151-32 and 39-9 in the Senate.

The withholding of names can inhibit public interest groups and lawyers from investigating shootings and the background (or prior incidents) involving officers. As the police know with regard to other witnesses, the first few days are critical for witnesses and investigation. Having the picture of an officer can assist those who are trying to establish independently what the facts may be in a given circumstance. The law is also a heavy limitation on the free press in seeking to establish the facts of shootings.

From the perspective of the police unions, however, there are clear dangers to officers. As shown by recent riots and protests, officers can become the focus of media and lead to threats against them and their families. That public backlash can occur before all of the facts are known, including exonerating circumstances or videotapes.

What do you think?

20 thoughts on “Pennsylvania Moves Toward New Law To Delay Releasing Names Of Officers In Shootings For 30 Days”

  1. There are already existing precedents for the non-disclosure of identities, such as the identity of child victims (permanently) and victims of sexual assault(pre-arraignment/trial). There are obvious reasons for these, to protect the victims from harm by society and such. This issue with officers can be articulated from a personal protection issue.

    Given the current environment, a thirty day hold on officer’s identity is a reasonable balance considering the totality of the circumstances. Plus, the availability of the records pertaining to officer involved shootings made for public release will almost certainly not happen for a month at minimum given the extent and pragmatic times involved in investigation.

    But three is something to be considered. There could be a conflict in this law since if the officer is immediately arrested and charged, records of the identity of the officer are immediately available for public review.

    If the state has a duty to protect an ordinary criminal from attacks by an angry mob, it is no different if the person wears a uniform or not.

  2. I have a real problem with two sets of laws -one for the”protected” and another for the rest of us.

    We are all Americans – equal under the law.

    Don’t you think that every John arrested in a prostitution sting wants anonimity? The release of his name assures humiliation, regardless of the outcome of the investigation.

    Creating special exemptions creates a special class – and by definition a disadvantaged class.

    1. It’s called “moral relativism” ghiguy31. It’s a central belief in the church of Satan. And our government is largely based upon it with the principle of sovereign immunity..

  3. So you want to treat all LEO’s as criminals when carrying and using a weapon is part of their job description? There will be officer involved shootings that are unjust but exposing the officers identity does nothing to advance justice. Releasing the identities of the officers involved is a knee-jerk reaction to a problem of accountability and puts at risk innocent officers and their families that will suffer under the court of public opinion. I don’t know why the unions don’t insist on a standardized oversight process that protects those officers that are properly following procedures.

    One thing is certain, if you want less law enforcement presence in our communities then all you need to do is tell them their rules-of-engagement require they are not to pull out their weapons until they are fired upon first.

    1. Olly – if they wait until they are fired on first, it will be too late. You cannot assume that criminals are poor shots.

    2. “One thing is certain, if you want less law enforcement presence in our communities then all you need to do is tell them their rules-of-engagement require they are not to pull out their weapons until they are fired upon first.”

      That is exactly what I want. It is cops, not “criminals”, that are the major violators of our rights today.
      They are an abomination to our Republic that have only existed for about 100 years. They are the standing army that the founders warned us about. There is plenty to suggest that Police departments were and are to a large extent a creation of the “invisible government” They are here to be mindless order followers to enforce the edicts of the elites, that we euphemistically call “law”.

      I would like to see ALL governmental police departments abolished. We do not need to have people running around that have sovereign immunity, and are not held accountable for their actions. FWIW that moral relativism is a pillar of the Church of Satan. Should we be basing police departments on pillars of the church of satan?

      We also need to bring back the militia of the several states. They negated any need for “police Departments”

      1. “Well regulated” comes to mind when thinking of your suggestion. The various governmental agencies established to provide for the security of our unalienable rights no longer confine themselves to limits of the rule of law. The fault does not rest in the hands of those elected to serve but rather in the hands of those that put them there. Yes, the founders warned us about ALL of this which means our government, whether visible or “invisible” ARE performing EXACTLY as predicted.

        The 3rd self-evident truth clearly establishes government as being necessary. The 4th clearly establishes our right to “alter or abolish” it. We are at that 4th stage but nothing will change until the people themselves become more enlightened as to their duty to keep this from happening all over again. We’ve failed miserably in our most basic of civic duties and yet somehow you believe we’d magically become better citizens by abolishing the institutions “WE” created to establish and maintain “justice”. Before you ignorantly decide to ABOLISH government, you’d better consider the culture we’d lean on to define justice. We are eons away from that being a rational decision for anyone interested in the equal security of our unalienable rights.

  4. I don’t agree with the 72 hours before interviewing the officers, but I do agree with the 30 days. For that you can thank BLM and their thugs.

    1. Has there been a rash of civilians harming LEOs who’ve shot civilians aka suspects?

    2. I heard BLM “and their thugs” broke into a police officer’s home, stole over $10,000 in valuables, and tagged the house with BLM graffiti. They must be such horrible people. As the officer’s wife said: ““We woke up to not only our house being robbed while we were sleeping, but to see this hatred for no reason.” Her bravery in the face of this terror is truly remarkable.

      Oops. Apparently, the cop’s wife just made the whole thing up so they could scam the insurance company on a phonied-up claim.

      Maybe we should pass a law that hides her name for 30 days as well – especially from the insurance company. After all, shouldn’t our heroes’ families be “protected”?

  5. Focusing on the swiftness of releasing the names is misplaced. Truly independent investigations is where all the focus must be placed.

  6. Chief Ramsey is right. Transparency improves police-community relations. If there is some credible threat, then the agency or public officials can withhold identification information. But charging public officials with a crime for such disclosures in their discretion is absolutely the wrong way to go. The Governor should veto the bill.

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