Police measures advance in state Senate
Two bills in the state Legislature that some say would protect cops recently got a push.
Two bills in the state Legislature that some say would protect cops got a push on Tuesday.
The Senate voted to move up from second consideration Tuesday House Bill 1538 to a third and final vote next week. Senate Bill 976 had its third and final vote Wednesday, passing 455. These bills limit information about police involved in shootings and regulations of body cameras, respectively.
Critics say the measures would limit the public’s right to know about the actions of law enforcement.
SB 976 would amend the state’s Wiretap Act to allow police officers to wear body cameras without disclosing that an individual is being recorded when executing a warrant, in an interrogation room or if exigent circumstances are present. Officers must still Mirandize persons upon their arrest, identify themselves as a police officer and must document the recording for evidentiary purposes.
The bill also does not require footage from an officer’s camera to be released to the public until all appeals, post-convictions and habeas corpus proceedings on the recording have concluded.
Introduced last year by state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-12, of Upper Moreland, the bill has taken almost a year to get to a third and final vote before a future move to the House. Greenleaf Communications Director Aaron Zappia said Tuesday the delay were amendments to the bill so police did not run afoul of privacy issues in public or private situations.
The Senate also moved HB 1538 to a third and final vote which provides guidelines for when a police department may publicly release information about police involved in shootings.
The bill says the name and identifying information of an officer may not be released if an official investigation has been initiated into actions that have resulted in the death or serious bodily injury of a person. Information will be released at the end of the investigation if an officer is charged with a criminal offense as a result of firing their gun or by use of force.
Information may be withheld for 30 days after the inci-
dent if it can be reasonably expected to “create a risk of harm to the person or property of the law enforcement officer.”
Prime sponsor Rep.
Martina White, R-170, of Philadelphia, could not be reached for comment but wrote in a Facebook post: “This legislation is critical as we’ve seen shootings involving police officers become so politically charged that the officers’ lives and their families can be endangered even if the use
of force was justified.
“While we need transparency whenever police are involved in a shooting, we owe our officers basic protection from threats.”
After passage from the Senate, the bill will go to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk to be signed.