In the wake of police officers being targeted and shot in Texas and Louisiana earlier this year—some instances ostensibly related to officers shooting unarmed civilians—the Pennsylvania state legislature passed a bill that would have limited public officials’ ability to identify officers involved in shootings for safety reasons.
On Nov. 21, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed that bill.
“While I am deeply concerned for the safety of the Commonwealth’s police officers, government works best when trust and openness exist between citizens and their government, and as such, I cannot sign into law a policy that will enshrine the withholding of information in the public interest,” he said.
“These situations in particular—when law enforcement uses deadly force—demand utmost transparency, otherwise a harmful mistrust will grow between police officers and the communities they protect and serve. Further, I cannot allow local police department policies to be superseded and transparency to be criminalized, as local departments are best equipped to decide what information is appropriate to release to the public.”
Several local civil rights activists had called for the veto and were gratified by the governor’s action. Tim Stevens, chairman and CEO of The Black Political Empowerment Project called on the governor to veto the legislation, HB 1538, just last week, noting it would turn back recent hard-won progress in local community-police relations.
“This (issue) remains on of the most racially sensitive in our Commonwealth and the nation,” he said. “House Bill HB 1538, if signed, will further deteriorate an already existing bad situation between communities of color and police throughout Pennsylvania.”
It was not only justice advocates who opposed the bill, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association also called for a veto.