Pennsylvania State Rep. Martina White (R-170) unveiled a proposal Wednesday to revoke a recent Philadelphia Police Department policy that releases the names of officers in police-involved incidents of violence.
White announced her plan Wednesday at Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 headquarters and was joined by FOP members including president John McNesby. The legislation announcement “would bar police departments from releasing the names of officers involved in violent confrontations while an investigation is ongoing,” according to White’s press release.
White said that she created the legislation due to cases in which police officers have gone into hiding or resigned despite being cleared of violations. “Our own public officials shouldn’t be the ones handing over officer’s information which can lead criminals to them and their families where they can take vengeful actions. It’s wrong and now is the time to do something about it,” White said.
“Supporting this bill means protecting the identity of an officer while he or she is being investigated for discharging a firearm or using force in the line of duty until criminal charges have been brought against the officer,” White said. “Once the investigation is complete, criminal charges have been filed, and the life of the officer and his or her family members are not in danger, then it is to the discretion of the public official to disclose the officers’ information.”
Before making this announcement, White had written a memorandum in early August outlining her intent to introduce such legislation:
[quote_box_center]In the near future I will be introducing legislation that pending an investigation that involves the discharge of a firearm or use of force by a law enforcement officer during the performance of their official duties, the name and identifying information of the law enforcement officer may not be released to the public. At the conclusion of the investigation, the information may be released to the public only if the law enforcement officer is charged with a criminal offense relating to the discharge of a firearm or use of force. The officer’s information may not be released unless the officer is charged with a criminal offense or if the information released can be expected to cause harm to the officer or their immediate family.[/quote_box_center]
White’s legislation appears to be a direct rebuke to a policy announced by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey in July in which the Philadelphia Police department would release the name of an officer involved in a shooting within 72 hours. An exception was made for officers who had threats made against them. The policy was recommended by the Department of Justice as well as Ramsey’s presidential task force. It was quickly challenged by the FOP. The FOP claimed the policy was made “without negotiating with or securing the approval of the FOP.”
White, a 26-year-old financial adviser, won a vacant House seat during a special election in March, winning 57 percent of the votes. White and Democrat Sarah Del Ricci sought the position previously held by Democrat Brendan Boyle; Boyle left the seat when he was elected to the U.S. House. White defeated Del Ricci by 13 percentage points in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1.
White received support and endorsements from several unions, including the Philadelphia Fire Fighters’ & Paramedics Union, the Laborers District Council, and Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order Of Police. According to Philadelphia Magazine, the Philadelphia FOP donated $5,000 to White one month before the election, and White hosted her post-election victory party at the FOP’s headquarters.
White’s bill is expected to be made public on Sept. 4.