Legislative Alert: Public has a right to know in police-involved shootings

  • Oct 18, 2016

Summary of Bill: HB 1538, which passed the House in Nov. 2015, would prohibit disclosure of police officers' names in "use of force" or shooting incidents. The bill conceals the name of any police officer who fires his or her weapon in the course of law enforcement duties until criminal charges are filed, or, provided there is no perceived threat to the officer, after the investigation has concluded.

Action Needed: House Bill 1538 is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Law and Justice Committee on Monday, October 17.. Contact committee members to voice your opposition to this bill. Find committee members here. Many PNA members have already editorialized on this bill and we urge you to editorialize against this ill-advised bill.

The identity of officers and others involved in an incident, as well as the basic facts surrounding that incident, helps to establish and deepen trust between law enforcement and citizens; it can also help to calm community concerns regarding specific police actions or allegations of bias.

We certainly understand that police officers perform essential services in our communities; they keep us safe and put themselves at risk on a daily basis. However, law enforcement officers also have great power. Police officers carry and use weapons that can dramatically change, or even end, a person’s life, in an instant. When force is used, or a firearm is discharged, it is important for community members to understand as much as they can about the circumstances surrounding the incident. The identity of an officer, as well as the accused, is a critical piece of this understanding.

As drafted the legislation would not permit an officer or a police chief to disclose facts, even if they believed it was in their own interest to do so, or in the best interest of the community.

For more information on PNA's position, contact Paula Knudsen, Director of Government

Affairs/Legislative Counsel: (717) 951-6314 or paulak@pa-news.org.

 

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