Since the Department of Justice in 2015 recommended that the Philadelphia Police Department wait no longer than 72 hours to release the names of officers involved in shootings, fatal or not, the agency has complied and, to boot, been consistent – on Tuesday, the department released the name of an officer who on Saturday shot a 20 year-old fleeing suspect, who was said to be armed and running towards another officer, in the back.
The transparency has, for the most part, placated citizens – especially pro-police reform activists – but the local police union, which endorsed Mr. Donald J. Trump for president, frowns upon it and has since worked to fast-track a bill in the state House and Senate which would prevent names from being released until after an investigation, and if the officer is charged with a crime, or for at least thirty days and with the written consent from an officer.
House Bill 1538 – which Mr. Kelvyn Anderson, Philadelphia’s civilian oversight practitioner, said would crush police transparency efforts –sits now on the desk of Pennsylvania Governor Mr. Tom Wolf, awaiting either his signing or veto – popular opinion among my sources is that the latter option will prevail.
But if the governor chooses not to veto, and the controversial bill becomes law, Philadelphia could continue business as usual, but the power of disclosure would no longer reside with the Police Commissioner but rather the District Attorney, who, according to the bill’s language, is exempt from adhering to the policy.
Interestingly enough, the current district attorney, Mr. Seth Williams, who plans to seek re-election, last week announced new pro-police transparency protocols for officers-involved-shootings, which included making public within 60 days the final report of the Office’s investigation into an incident. However, despite the newfound commitment to police transparency, Mr. Williams hasn’t spoken of his ability or desire to circumvent the controversial House Bill if it was to become law, and the local news media hasn’t inquired of such.
Indeed, all the lobbying – the majority of it done by activists because most local officials have silenced themselves on this issue, though Mr. Anderson, who leads the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission, is an exception – has been directed towards the governor.
But Philadelphians have another option, and given its local election season and Mr. Williams is on the ballot, the time has come to leverage it and demand a commitment from him, and others seeking the Office, that they will ensure continuity on the City’s current police transparency policy.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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