As a young black man, my chances of being shot by a police officer – whether intentionally or accidentally – are exponentially higher than anyone else.
Pennsylvania State Representatives may have just made the opportunity of you ever knowing the names of officers behind this tragic disproportion even harder.
On Tuesday, a bill introduced by Republican State Rep. Martina White, was passed unanimously out of the House Judiciary Committee, across the party aisle, that would forbid public officials from releasing the names of police officers that shoot civilians until after an official investigation is carried out.
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“We need to balance transparency with some basic protections for our law enforcement officers,” White said to the press. “Police 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.”
It should be noted that this bill comes off the heels of Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey ordering his police department to begin revealing names of cops who have shot civilians.
Money also played a role in getting this bill passed after union support from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) brought in $5,000 for White’s special election campaign this past February.
What’s even more upsetting about this bill’s passing is that it’s not aligned with our current national discourse on criminal justice reform and police accountability – even the U.S. Department of Justice and ACLU are pushing for more transparency in police reporting even though the FOP clearly isn’t.
What disappointed me the most was that there were young black male elected officials who voted to get this bill passed such as Democratic State Rep. Jason Dawkins. How are you representing guys like us who would benefit more from progressive police transparency than anyone else?
When asked if Governor Tom Wolf was going to veto this bill when given the chance, his press secretary Jeffery Sheridan told me, “It is too premature to comment on this legislation, as it would be for any legislation, at this point in the process.” I guess Wolf is too busy trying to get our budget together to speak on anything else. Sure, Tom.
The progress of this bill is hypocritical and a nasty reminder that the police state obsession of our current elected officials is more politically driven than civic.
Folks like Dawkins and other progressives are supporting this bill because they want to stay elected and not make any union rivals. To go against the police, even when they are wrong, is treated as a sin in Pennsylvania.
However, I value civilian lives just as much as I respect officers in uniform. If a civilian were to unfortunately shoot an officer while on duty, we would see that individual’s face and name on our television screens and newspapers without hesitation.
The double standard in placing such value and protection for potential criminals wearing uniforms is disheartening and a lack of civic responsibility. The public should know when police officers have potentially stepped out of line. Our governing legislation should not be crafted in spite of first amendment rights (such as the right to protest) as an excuse to deny citizens immediate law enforcement transparency.
My taxpayer dollars fund both elected officials and police officers that are supposed to serve and protect my interests and safety.
Right now, I don’t feel safe nor do I feel justice is being served. Some folks are losing my vote next election cycle. My life matters.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Metro US.