Gov. Wolf ponders officer-involved shootings bill

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Pennsylvania may become the only state to withhold the names of police officer involved in shootings. 

A bill that passed both chambers in Harrisburg and is now sitting on the governor’s desk would keep an officer’s name secret for 30 days after firing a weapon in the line of duty.

The legislation is a direct response to a policy change made by former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and recommended by the Department of Justice: That Philadelphia tell the public the identity of an officer involved in a shooting soon after the fact.

But the bill Governor Tom Wolf is now examining, which has the support of the Fraternal Order of Police, would undo that.

Kelvyn Anderson, the executive director of the Police Advisory Commission, thinks if the bill passes, it could further damage the relationship between police and citizens they are sworn to serve.

“If people believe that we’re actually going backwards and not going to make good on the promise of transparency I think that will potentially inflame communities even more,” Anderson said.

Other critics argue that having a 30-day waiting period before releasing an officer’s name could create the potential for more cover-ups. Yet supporters of the bill counter that it will prevent the public from jumping to conclusion, and keep officers safe.

A similar law was vetoed in Arizona last year. In Oregon and Virginia, nearly identical bills have been introduced but have been shelved, meaning, if passed, Pennsylvania will be the sole state that keeps officer names secret for 30 days following a shooting.

“The way the bill has gone through the legislature with virtually no comment from anyone outside of the FOP is certainty not the way democracy should work,” Anderson said. “It sets a very dangerous precedent for our communities who are looking for additional transparency and accountability from our police departments.”

Representatives from the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 did not return calls seeking comment.

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