State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

Citing "current climate" PA prosecutor group releases police shooting guidelines

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Nov 29, 2016 6:32 PM
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The group said these recommendations were the first they'd ever issued regarding police shootings. (Photo by AP)

(Harrisburg) -- The Pennsylvania District Attorney's Association, which represents the state's prosecutors, has released a set of "best practice" guidelines on how to handle police-involved shootings.

The 16-item list includes stipulations that investigations into shootings should be conducted by outside agencies, district attorneys should direct investigations, and officers' names shouldn't be released unless they are charged.

That last measure is a topic that has caused some controversy around Harrisburg.

Governor Tom Wolf recently vetoed a divisive bill that would've prevented officials from releasing officers' names for 30 days after a police-involved shooting.

Association president and Lebanon County DA David Arnold said his group's measure isn't related.

"If an officer is charged with a crime as a result of a shooting, then certainly their name gets released," he said. "But if he's not charged then I think you really have to weigh a lot of different factors, including that officer's own safety."

Arnold said the list is chiefly a public transparency measure--one that's necessary given the current state of police/community relations.

"We've been fortunate--we haven't had any of the real unrest or protests or problems that some places have had," he said. "But we also don't want to have that problem, and we're hopeful that putting out these thoughts to the public will help them understand how investigations are done by police."

This is the first time the DA's Association has issued guidelines on police-involved shootings, according to Arnold.

But he noted that it doesn't mean attorneys will be changing procedure much.

"I think our goal was to let the public know this is how we all pretty much do it anyway," he said.

The new guidelines aren't law. Attorneys can still make whatever choices they think are best in a given situation.

Published in News, State House Sound Bites

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