HARRISBURG – Legislation to prohibit the release of the name of a police officer after he uses force drew criticism today from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, hours after the bill’s passage by a state House committee.
House Bill 1538 bans public officials from releasing the name of an officer who uses force, including the discharge of his firearm, until the end of an “official investigation.”
“We give our police officers a great deal of power, including the use of physical force, up to and including deadly force,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “It is crucial that transparency is coupled with that power.
“This bill diminishes transparency. The implication here is that police officers who use force have something to hide.”
A similar but narrower bill was vetoed by Republican Governor Doug Ducey in Arizona earlier this year. The Arizona bill prohibited the release of an officer’s name for 60 days or at the end of an investigation, whichever was shorter, in situations that involved death or serious personal injury.
“Local officials are best equipped to determine whether or not to release an officer’s name in this type of situation,” said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “They can assess the circumstances in their communities and reach a conclusion. This is not the type of decision that should be made in the state capitol.
“This type of policy actually harms police-community relations by withholding information from the public.”
HB 1538 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.