A state representative from Philadelphia has introduced a bill, backed by the Fraternal Order of Police, that pushes back against a new police department policy that identifies all officers involved in shootings.
The bill, which has 45 sponsors— eight of them Democrats — would prevent officials from releasing the names of officers during the investigation of police-involved shootings. At the conclusion of an investigation, police brass could only release the name of the officers if they determine that there have been no threats to the safety of the officer or his family or if the officer is accused of a crime.
Under a policy announced earlier this year, the department has pledged to identify all officers involved in shootings within 72 hours — whether the investigation is complete or not. That policy was recommended by the U.S. Department of Justice as part of a report on officer-involved shootings.
But the policy also comes at a time of increased scrutiny across the country on the use of force by police — particularly against young black men. Activists say that the reputations of suspects killed by police are often dragged through the mud in the media while the officers remain anonymous.
Backers of the bill point out that Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. has gone into hiding amid protests over that death, though he was not charged by authorities with any wrongdoing.
“We can’t have public officials disclosing the names of our officers and catering to this mob mentality that’s going on today,” said Republican State Rep. Martina White, who introduced the bill.
Her district, in northeast Philadelphia, is home to many police officers.
Philadelphia FOP president John McNesby at a press conference earlier this week pointed to the death of a Houston-area sheriff’s deputy who was killed while pumping gas as an example of the threats to officers. Some police officers believe that the deputy was killed in response to ongoing protests over police violence.
“This policy of releasing officers names within three days is insane and absurd,” McNesby said. "We see it one way, they don’t.”
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey told the Philadelphia Daily News that he hopes the bill does not pass.