State Legislators Approve Bill Limiting Police Transparency in Pennsylvania
Last week, we told you about three controversial bills being fast-tracked through the Pennsylvania legislature.
One of them, a bill that would limit police transparency, is perhaps the most controversial of the three given national dialogue surrounding fatal and contentious police shootings of unarmed minorities – mostly black men.
Today, that bill – House Bill 1538 – was approved by legislators and will now make its way to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf. If signed, it would prevent public officials from releasing the names of officers involved in deadly shootings for 30 days after the incident occurs or after an official investigation has ended.
Wolf hasn’t said much other than he’ll review the bill, which is sponsored by state Rep. Martina White, also the sponsor of a bill that would punish cities in Pennsylvania that enact formal and informal sanctuary city policies.
If House Bill 1538 becomes law, officials – with the exception of the state attorney general’s office and the district attorney’s offices – could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor if they share the name of an officer involved in an incident that has resulted in death or “serious bodily injury” when a gag order has been issued.
The bill has been heavily criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union, which called it “a policy that will heighten tensions between the police and the communities they serve” and “completely tone deaf to the needs of communities that are impacted by police brutality.”
It conflicts with a policy of the Philadelphia Police Department that requires officials to release the names of officers involved in shootings within 72 hours after the incident, as long as the safety of that officer is not deemed at risk.
Preserving the safety of police officers is at the heart of the legislation, the bill’s supporters argue.
House Bill 1538 was passed in the eleventh hour of current legislature’s two-year session. Today is likely the last day for legislators to vote on bills.
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