House passes legislation to protect identities of cops involved in shootings

Legislation sponsored by state Rep. Martina White (R-170th dist.) has passed the House, protecting police officers and their families when the officer is involved in a discharge of their firearm or other use of force.

House Bill 1538, which is supported by Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 and the state FOP, would delay police departments from releasing the names of officers involved in violent confrontations while an investigation is ongoing. Public officials would be able to release the identifications once the investigation is complete, and criminal charges have been filed or the life of the officer and his or her family members are deemed no longer in danger.

“This is an appropriate step forward in protecting the identities of police officers until they are either charged with an offense or cleared and any threats against the officer or their families have dissipated,” White said.

“As we’ve seen across the country, shootings involving police officers have become so politically charged that the officers’ lives and their families can be endangered even if the use of force was justified. While we need transparency whenever police are involved in a shooting, we owe our officers basic protection from threats. My bill offers a way to protect them until the facts come out. I want to protect the good officers from being tried in public, while making sure those who break the law are tried in court.”

The bill passed 162–38 and now moves to the Senate. The bill was opposed by 34 Democrats and four Republicans. Locally, those supporting the bill were Reps. Martina White, Tom Murt, John Taylor, Kevin Boyle, Mark Cohen, Ed Neilson and Mike Driscoll. In opposition were Reps. Jason Dawkins and Dwight Evans.

“At a time when the relationship between law enforcement and the minority communities they serve is already strained, the last thing we need is a bill that would create suspicion and potentially damage public trust,” Dawkins said. “This is a poorly written bill that may be unconstitutional. I am a huge supporter of our men and women who put that uniform on every day to protect the people of this great city, but transparency is desperately needed for our public figures.”

Dawkins noted that Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association oppose the bill. ••