I spoke to a number of Philadelphians, all who are employed in different sectors of public service, and they each expressed disappointment today over the great possibility that a bill will soon pass in Harrisburg that will crush police transparency efforts and reverse whatever meaningful strides were made in the area of police-community relations.
A House Bill (HB1538) that would temporarily keep private the name of officers involved in shootings unless charged with a crime is described by Mr. Kelvyn Anderson of the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission as “tremendously unfortunate” and a measure that will further erode confidence in policing.
Mr. Anderson, who spoke to me while on break from a professional development conference in Las Vegas, said the state legislature has a responsibility to protect both police officers and citizens, but their actions are clearly working against the interest of the people.
Bewildered by the silence from City officials on the bill – the Mayor of Philadelphia in a February private meeting with Mr. Anderson, activists and I announced his opposition to the bill and pledged not to follow the law if passed, adding that the city’s law department would look to see what their options are via resistance – Mr. Anderson lays much of the blame on himself, his agency and the public at-large.
“We can only blame ourselves for not pushing hard enough” against the bill, Mr. Anderson, who urged more attention be paid by the public to the state legislature, told me.
State Representative Mr. Jordan Harris, who in the House voted against the legislation that would keep officers’ names private, refrained from attributing blame and instead condemned the bill as “bad” and an “obstruction” to improving police-community relations.
Rep. Harris, who said the bill is the wrong direction to head towards and that what’s needed in policing more than anything is transparency, told Techbook Online exclusively that if the bill does pass the Senate, he would offer the Governor whatever support he needed to execute a veto.
A former President of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and a longtime political reporter, Ms. Denise Clay said that Governor Tom Wolf, “who at his core is a good man,” would likely veto HB1538, which keeps private the names of officers until a month after the incident or until an investigation is completed.
Disappointed but not surprised that the bill last week passed in committee, Ms. Clay said the news media should absolutely shoulder some of the blame for this issue being less than a blurb in local publications and broadcasts.
“I haven’t heard nearly as much about this bill as we should be hearing,” Ms. Clay stated. “The saga of Donald and Hillary drowned out the issue,” she added.
Further condemning the media, Ms. Clay argued that HB1538 should be a campaign issue for incumbent Pennsylvania Senator Mr. Pat Toomey and his challenger, Ms. Katie McGinty: “This seems like something they should be made to talk about!”
Tonight at Temple University, Senator Toomey and Ms. McGinty will debate a variety of issues. Ms Clay, an Emmy-Award winning journalist, will attend, cover it, and plans to confront the candidates with a line of questioning germane to police transparency.
Asked why Philadelphia officials haven’t been publicly vocal in their opposition to the controversial bill championed by the police union, Ms. Clay suggested they’re afraid of the Fraternal Order of Police and that the fear of them “has been present for a long time.”
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