PLBC disappointed at return of secretive policing bill

PHILADELPHIA, March 20 – State Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Phila., chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, said the PLBC is disappointed at the return of the police secrecy bill the House passed today and is calling for Gov. Tom Wolf to veto it again.

Similar to a bill Wolf vetoed at the end of last session, H.B. 27 would block the release of the name of a police officer who discharges his or her firearm or uses force that results in death or serious injury until the completion of an official investigation that is not defined and that could take up to 30 days after the incident.

"This bill would further erode the trust between citizens, specifically people of color, and our police forces at a time when police-community relations are too often strained," Harris said. "Hiding the name of a police officer involved in a potentially deadly encounter is not the way to improve trust between law enforcement and communities that have historically been marginalized by those in power.

"We need more trust between police and the people they serve, not less."

Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Phila., vice chairwoman of the PLBC, said, "Transparency is a goal we strive for at all levels of government. Police departments perform a highly skilled and dangerous job for the people, but they also should remain accountable to the people. I believe those ideas are not mutually exclusive and that acknowledging this will help build better relations among communities and departments."

Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., treasurer of the PLBC, said, "The public especially needs to know if an officer involved in a death or serious injury has a pattern of being involved in those types of incidents."

However, the Republican-majority House voted against two amendments by Rabb and PLBC member Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Phila./Delaware, to require releasing an officer's name if the officer was subject to another official investigation resulting from use of force or discharge of a firearm in the preceding 18 months, or if the officer was subject to another official investigation into use of force or discharge of a firearm resulting in serious bodily injury.

Harris said, "This legislation would insert state government into the realm of telling local police departments how they need to run their offices. In the interest of transparency and openness, the Philadelphia Police Department specifically has a policy to identify anyone involved in an officer-involved shooting within 72 hours. I’m glad Governor Wolf realized how damaging this bill would’ve been and made the correct choice in vetoing it last year. I urge him to veto it again if it reaches his desk."