Because the new best practices on officer-involved shootings from the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association appear to favor law enforcement and doesn’t wholly embrace police transparency, Mr. Kelvyn Anderson, who serves as both the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission and the Vice President for the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, grades the overall output with a C+, though a particular portion within the recommendations was deemed a failure by Mr. Anderson due to it mirroring language in a controversial House Bill that was last week vetoed by Governor Tom Wolf.
Mr. Anderson – who is confident that another House Bill which advocates for secrecy in policing will be introduced in January and this time the local police union, who lobbied for the now failed measure, will have on their side the PDAA, which said in its recommendations released today that if an officer-involved shooting is deemed justified than an officer’s name shouldn’t be released – recognized the aggregation and presentation of best practices as a respectable effort wherein a great amount time was invested, but asserted that what was presented to the public was more continuity than innovation, and it certainly doesn’t center police transparency.
Though the PDAA does consider as a best practice a third party investigation into OISs, Mr. Anderson said the overall politics of the recommendations are to keep investigations in close reach of District Attorneys.
Ironically, it’s the police transparency measures made public recently by Philadelphia District Attorney Mr. Seth Williams – who last year was staunchly opposed by activists who felt he was complicit in attempting to cover-up the fatal police shooting of Mr. Brandon Tate-Brown – which Mr. Anderson prefers. Unbeknownst to the public at-large, Mr. Williams, who’s seeking re-election in 2017, wrote a letter to Governor Wolf asking him to veto HB1538; here’s what a part of what he penned:
“The people we represent must trust that any police involved shooting will be fully and fairly investigated, and that requires in most circumstances prompt and regular disclosure whenever there is a police involved shooting.”
In a way, Mr. Williams, a bureaucrat, has appeared to break ranks in this instance to stand on the right side of history, and his stance is seen by Mr. Anderson as, when compared to his colleagues, stronger.
By far, the most disappointing aspect of the presented best practices is the idea that the only video and audio of an OIS that should be made public is when the incident is ruled justified. It was this recommendation that also garnered a failing grade, and thumbs down, from Mr. Anderson, who called the idea “awful” and “self-serving.”
Furthermore, Mr. Anderson argues that framing OISs only in the context of justified or its opposite is an oversimplification, and does nothing to offer insight into tactics, training and protocols.
“Every time a bullet comes out an officer’s gun we need to understand why. Officer-involved shootings are not just a question of legalities,” Mr. Anderson said.
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