If this bill passes, police officers who shoot or use force against citizens in the line of duty will not be identified publicly during an investigation. This is a law that may come into effect if Bill 1538 is passed. So far, the bill has made its way to the Senate. If passed, police officers will not be identified at all unless criminal charges are filed against them.
Bill 1538 is an Act amending Title 44 (Law and Justice) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes. It garnered bipartisan support in the House, and has the support of the Philadelphia police union along with other police labor groups. However, Bill 1538 so far has received staunch opposition from civil libertarians, media and open-records advocates.
According to John McNesby, President of the Philadelphia Police Union, the main idea behind submitting this bill is to “put a lid on the boiling pot until things calm down, especially if it’s an investigation that could lead to protests in the community”.
In contrast, Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board, terms this bill “ridiculous”, and that “It would set us back in terms of police accountability, I think, to a tragic level.”
Rep. Martina White said she drafted the bill partially as a reaction to attacks on officers and also because of the decision made by the Philadelphia police commissioner to release the names of officers involved in shootings within 72 hours of an incident.
Earlier, Lt. John Stanford, a Philadelphia police spokesman, said that “an officer can’t shoot someone and have an expectation to remain anonymous. It’s just not right”.
“No. 1, it will end transparency,” Philadelphia NAACP president Rodney Muhammad said of the bill. “That’s a frightening thing for the public when it comes to our own safety. No. 2, it would cast a cloud on good police and good policing.” He added that it would deal a “death blow” to good community relations and would compound the grief of families of those shot by police officers.
Bill 1538 can prevent an officer’s name from being revealed if it “can reasonably be expected” to harm the officer or an immediate family member. McNesby says that “It’s not about us trying to cover anything up … It’s about safety. It’s about keeping the peace of mind of the officers.”
Opponents of Bill 1538 believe that a pre-emptive approach to thwarting the possibility of direct threats to police officers or their family members simply undermines civil liberties and transparency of current issues.
What do you think?