Ramsey Comes Out Against Cop-Cloaking Bill in Harrisburg
Philadelphia’s top cop is pushing back against a bill that would cloak the identities of officers in “police-involved shootings.”
CBS Philly reports that outgoing Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey told KYW Newsradio, “I’m against it. I think it’s a huge mistake.” (His comments came before a Pennsylvania state trooper was wounded during a shootout on I-676 late Tuesday morning.)
The union representing Philadelphia’s police officers has been pushing hard for House Bill 1538, which would generally keep confidential the identity of officers involved in shootings, unless they are charged with a crime after an investigation. The bill passed the House with bipartisan support, and the Senate is expected to take it up soon.
The bill was introduced after Ramsey issued a directive earlier this year that allows the department to release the names of officers involved in shootings within 72 hours of the incident. (A section of the Police Department website gives full information about department policies governing the use of force as well as a list and a map showing where officer-involved shootings took place; the site does not list the names of the officers involved.)
The FOP claims this information puts officers’ lives in danger. President John McNesby said at a September news conference announcing the bill that “it makes common sense,” citing attacks on officers in other states.
Ramsey disputes this. “We’ve released names on four different occasions on five officers and have not had a single issue,” he told KYW. The ACLU also opposes the bill.
Ramsey has been a champion of transparency in police operations nationwide in his role as chair of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The policies he has implemented locally were all recommended by the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission. McNesby disparaged its recommendations at that news conference, saying, “To have a city administration and a commissioner who wants to release information simply to satisfy the public just doesn’t make sense.” Ramsey says the fears are overblown, as officers are public officials who must wear badges with identifying numbers and identify themselves to suspects.
Insiders cited in the report say the bill enjoys strong support in the Senate and is likely to pass. Gov. Tom Wolf has yet to take a public position on the bill, but those insiders predict it will become law, especially if it becomes a bargaining chip in negotiations over the budget.