House legislators threw overwhelming bipartisan support behind a proposal Monday shielding Pennsylvania’s cops from public identification during police-involved shooting investigations.
The chamber voted 157-39 to approve House Bill 27, sponsored by Philadelphia Republican Rep. Martina White, who proposed an identical measure in 2015 ultimately vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf.
“This bill has the necessary balance between the right for our police officers to have due process and the public’s need for transparency,” White said Monday. “As we’ve seen across the country, shootings involving police officers have become so politically charged that the officers’ lives and their families can be endangered even if the use of force was justified. House Bill 27 offers a way to protect our police until the facts of the case in question come out.”
HB 27 mandates police departments withhold the names of officers involved in police shootings and other “violent confrontations” for 30 days, or until criminal charges have been filed or an investigation has been completed. Officials who break this rule would face a second-degree misdemeanor charge.
Under current law, departments follow individual policies regarding the release of officer information. The Philadelphia police, for example, releases an officer’s name within 72 hours.
The bill’s detractors argue such policies should remain a local issue and shielding an officer’s name during an investigation lacks the transparency required of public officials — a point Wolf reiterated when he vetoed the same bill in November.
“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,” he said.
HB 27 now heads to the Senate for consideration.