Pennsylvania House Passes Bill to Hide Cops' Names After Shootings

The legislature passed the same bill last year, but the governor vetoed it. If at first you don't succeed...


Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto/Sipa/Newscom

A bill that would shield the release of the names of police officers involved in fatal shootings sailed through the Pennsylvania House Monday, over the objections of civil liberties groups who say it would "throw a cloak of secrecy" over serious use-of-force incidents by police.

Pennsylvania House Bill 27 would place a 30-day gag, except for district attorneys and the state attorney general, on identifying a police officer involved in a use-of-force incident that results in death or serious injury. It passed by a vote of 157-39. Supporters say the bill will protect officers from harassment and retribution after high-profile incidents, but opponents, like the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, say it keeps vital information the public.

"Let's be very clear about what this legislation does: This bill hides police who kill," Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. "The criminal justice system is already heavily weighted in favor of the police. This bill throws a cloak of secrecy over them at times when communities need information the most, after someone has been killed or seriously injured."

The Philadelphia Police Department has a policy of releasing the names of officers involved in fatal shootings within 72 hours, but currently the decision of when, and if, to release officers' names is left to the discretion of police chiefs and prosecutors.

The Pennsylvania legislature passed the same bill last year by wide, bipartisan margin, but Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed it, saying "government works best when trust and openness exist between citizens and their government, and as such, I cannot sign into law a policy that will enshrine the withholding of information in the public interest."

"These situations in particular—when law enforcement uses deadly force—demand utmost transparency, otherwise a harmful mistrust will grow between police officers and the communities they protect and serve," Wolf continued. "Further, I cannot allow local police department policies to be superseded and transparency to be criminalized, as local departments are best equipped to decide what information is appropriate to release to the public."

Asked if Wolf would veto the bill again, the governor's office responded: "The governor's opposition to this bill remains unchanged."

The bill is yet another salvo in the legislative battle going on in statehouses across the U.S. over police reform. In opposition to activists calling for aggressive police reform, state lawmakers have introduced numerous "blue lives matter" bills, such as ones that would make police officers a protected class under hate crime laws. Last year, North Carolina passed a bill exempting police body cam footage from the state's public record law.

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  1. throw a cloak of secrecy

    But what level Cloak of Secrecy?

    1. And where can I buy one?

  2. It passed by a vote of 157-39

    Christ, what a quorum of assholes.

  3. House Bill 27, which passed Monday in a 157-39 vote, would set a statutory requirement barring any public officials or employees from identifying police officers until 30 days after the use of force incident or after the completion of the investigation. Anyone who violates the proposed law would face a second-degree misdemeanor charge.

    Let’s say this shitty bill passes into law. Would the government then actually enforce this law and put government officials in jail?

    1. Nobody at a high enough level of appointment or election would release the name under any circumstance. They’re trying to head off whistleblowers treasonous leakers in the lower levels of bureaucracy. And they would most certainly fire them before putting them in jail.

      1. This. It pisses me off when i see this shit. I hear Fox constantly saying this shit and its disgusting. Whistle-blowers are about as american as you can get.

        Makes me wish i would have gotten my buddy who was legal chief to photo copy me as much as possible from my old unit and all the crazy shit that happened.

  4. Isn’t the point of police accountability to ensure that police shootings are fairly and properly investigated? How does releasing the name to the public ensure a proper investigation? Everyone knows a cop did it. The public is hopefully doing to expect the DA to do a proper investigation of it. Why does the public knowing the name of the cop help that to occur?

    Think of it this way, what if a legislature for once was pro-criminal defendant and passed a law prohibiting the disclosure of those charged with crimes until after they were convicted. Would reason object to that? I don’t see why they would and I can see some very good reasons why they would want to support such a law. Well, why is a cop under investigation for a shooting any different?

    I am not arguing for police to be let off if they wrongly shoot someone or for these cases to be ignored. But I also think not throwing the person to the mob, and these days that is exactly what arises after a police shooting in many cases, is a valid concern as well. .

    1. So you’d prefer the angry mob to just take their frustrations out on any police that happens to be convenient for them?

      1. I pretty sure the angry mob will do that anyway. So why not give the cop who is justified in shooting someone a chance to get lucky and not be the random cop they mob kills?

    2. How many adult, non-police, murder suspects have their identities kept secret from the public when they’re arrested? If it’s anything less than ‘all of them by statute,’ then fuck this bill.

    3. The difference between a citizen and government employee/agent is that.

      A citizen has far more rights than a government agent. I would love to see a persons name not released until trail starts!

      But for government agents that name must be released right away. Don’t want that to happen? don’t be a government agent.

      I lost shit tons of rights when i sold my soul to the big green weenie. nothing unjust about that (within reason). A name being released is reasonable. It allows independent investigations!

  5. What’s the point of being one of the King’s Men if you’re just going to get treated like a mundane?

  6. Me: I do agree, police shouldn’t have to deal with harassment…
    Them: Absolutely, police are just doing a very important job.

    Me: But by your logic, we shouldn’t release ANY names of those who haven’t been charged with a crime, right?
    Them: No, just police. We need them to protect us, so we have to protect them.

    Me: What about the teachers, doctors, garbage collectors, mothers, fathers, etc?
    Them: They’re criminals and people have a right to know.

    Me: So, you’re making this up as you go along.
    Them: Certainly not, it makes perfect sense in my head.

    Me: Mental health reform is also a very important issue too…
    Them: Absolutely! We’ve got to keep those crazies from harming the most precious resource we have, our people!

    Me: Like voters….?
    Them: Yes! Vote Quimby!

  7. I never thought I’d be saying anything nice about Wolf as governor.

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