Since Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a bill for delaying the identification of police officers who fire their weapon in the line of duty, the bill’s sponsor has said it will be reintroduced next year.
Gearing up for another battle over the legislation, Philadelphia NAACP president Rodney Muhammad said that the bill should stay dead. Keeping an officer who shoots someone unidentified for 30 days, as the failed bill proposed, is a step toward building a secret police force, he said.
“This isn’t a 007 operation. This is the Philadelphia police department. They should be identified,” Muhammad said during a news conference at the NAACP headquarters on Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
No public servant should be unknown to the public he or she serves, he said.
“It’s not something we can live with in Pennsylvania, and it’s contradictory to say we’re trying to move toward good community policing and then want the police to remain a secret,” he said.
Philadelphia’s current policy, introduced by former Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey at the recommendation of U.S. Justice Department officials, mandates disclosing an officer’s name within 72 hours of a shooting incident.
“Which tends to begin serving as a pressure valve for community outrage, and we find it’s a good tool to really help,” Muhammad said. “When transparency starts coming in, you begin to simmer the tempers that generally rise from a shooting, especially when the citizens are unarmed.”
State Rep. Martina White, R-Philadelphia, said having a 30-day name blackout gives an officer and officer’s family peace of mind after a shooting.
“Shootings are increasingly political,” White said in a statement. “That places the lives of our officers and the lives of their family members in danger. While we need transparency whenever police are involved in a shooting, we owe our officers basic protection from threats. That’s why I will reintroduce the legislation in the 2017-18 session.”
But the ACLU, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Richard Ross have all said keeping the information under wraps would be bad for police-community relations.
In a joint statement, Kenney and Ross suggested that city police department decisions should not be usurped by Harrisburg.
“It is not Harrisburg’s role to run Philadelphia’s police department,” the city leaders said. “There is no evidenced-based reason to go backwards.”