Rules cover shoot­ings in­volv­ing of­fi­cers

District at­tor­neys from Ch­ester, Montgomery coun­ties ex­plain re­cently re­leased guide­lines

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Adam Farence afarence@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @afarence on Twit­ter

Hop­ing to give guid­ance on a con­tro­ver­sial is­sue, the Penn­syl­va­nia District At­tor­neys As­so­ci­a­tion re­leased rec­om­men­da­tions Tues­day for lo­cal police de­part­ments and district at­tor­neys to han­dle a shoot­ing in­ci­dent in­volv­ing a police of­fi­cer.

The guide­lines are meant to stream­line, where pos­si­ble, the best prac­tices for in­ves­ti­gat­ing an of­fi­cer-in­volved shoot­ing while main­tain­ing a rea­son­able de­gree of trans­parency with the pub­lic.

Among other things, the guide­lines rec­om­mend that all shoot­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­volv­ing an of­fi­cer be con­ducted by an out­side agency at the di­rec­tion of the lo­cal district at­tor­ney.

This rec­om­men­da­tion, ac­cord­ing to Ch­ester County District At­tor­ney Tom Ho­gan, and Montgomery County District At­tor­ney Kevin Steele, has al­ready been in place for their re­spec­tive coun­ties.

With the rec­om­men­da­tion that out­side agen­cies con­duct an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into an of­fi­cer-in­volved shoot­ing rather than the police de­part­ment to which the of­fi­cer be­longs, the district at­tor­neys hope will re­move a po­ten­tial av­enue of crit­i­cism.

Both Ho­gan and Steele re­counted dif­fer­ent in­ci­dents where an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into an of­fi­cer­in­volved shoot­ing was con­ducted by an out­side agency, typ­i­cally the county de­tec­tives.

For Ch­ester County, Ho­gan men­tioned the in-

cident where a sher­iff shot

and killed Cur­tis Smith in Au­gust 2015. Smith, 34, of Coatesville, had barged into the Ch­ester County Jus­tice Cen­ter and slashed at a dif­fer­ent sher­iff with a knife,

ac­cord­ing to au­thor­i­ties.

Fol­low­ing a case of an of­fi­cer-in­volved shoot­ing, the guide­lines rec­om­mend the district at­tor­ney re­lease a pre­lim­i­nary report to the

pub­lic, and fol­low up with a more com­pre­hen­sive one when the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is com­plete.

“The pro­to­cols them­selves speak to how the pub­lic will be in­formed,” Ho­gan said. “The pub­lic will see the same thing the district at­tor­ney will see.”

“His­tor­i­cally, we try to be ac­ces­si­ble,” Steele said. “Ev­ery­thing will de­pend on the cir­cum­stances.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, both said in the case of an of­fi­cer­in­volved shoot­ing, the of­fi­cer’s name would most likely not be re­leased un­less charges are brought against him or her, and

both said this has been a stan­dard prac­tice of theirs.

There are 16 guide­lines to­tal, de­tail­ing who should han­dle the crime scene, how ev­i­dence is han­dled, how in­volved of­fi­cers should be in­ter­viewed, and the re­lease of video and au­dio record­ings to the pub­lic.

Ac­cord­ing to the guide­lines, if a record­ing of the shoot­ing ex­ists, it can be re­leased if the shoot­ing is deemed justified, but not if the of­fi­cer is charged.

“These are guide­lines we hope everyone can in­cor­po­rate,” Steele said.

These guide­lines were de­vel­oped by the Penn­syl­va­nia

District At­tor­neys As­so­ci­a­tion’s best prac­tices com­mit­tee, of which Ho­gan serves as the chair­man.

“Penn­syl­va­nia’s law en­force­ment agen­cies have the skills and ethics to do these in­ves­ti­ga­tions,” Ho­gan wrote in a prior state­ment. “But en­gag­ing an in­de­pen­dent agency in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­moves any ques­tions or neg­a­tive per­cep­tions that may come from the com­mu­nity.”

To con­tact Daily Lo­cal News staff writer Adam Farence, email afarence@ dai­ly­lo­cal.com, or call 610235-2647.

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