Bill would shield police officers' names after using force

Written by Ben Allen and Radio Pennsylvania | Oct 12, 2015 1:36 PM

(Harrisburg) -- Under a proposal in the state House, police officers in Pennsylvania involved in a shooting or use of force wouldn't be named unless they're charged with a crime.

Republican Representative Martina White of Philadelphia has proposed a bill to shield police officers' names from the public unless they face charges in connection with a shooting or use of force incident.

Officials would be barred from releasing names of officers who violate department policy. To take one example, a Philadelphia Inquirer investigation found that since 2002, Philadelphia police shot 43 people in vehicles, killing eight. But officers rarely faced criminal charges

Now, two state senators from opposite sides of aisle say they'll propose similar legislation.

Democratic Senator John Sabatina of Philadelphia County says police need protection too.

"The emergence of social media in the internet age gives access to information and accelerates the spreads of rumors, creating a danger for officers and their families in the emotional aftermath of high-profile events," says Sabatina.

"If there is an altercation and a gun is fired, someone is injured, someone is killed, they the police officers deserve the respect and the due diligence, that is accorded to many criminals in this system. When you ask about investigations, we can't comment on that," adds Republican Senator John Rafferty of Chester County.

Civil rights and transparency advocates argue the bills would remove accountability for police.

Sabatina says the public can be an emotional mob, and the decision to release an officer's name should get thorough scrutiny.

Recently elected to the House, White has received endorsements and donations from a Philly police union.

White's bill is in the House judiciary committee.

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