When the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association recommended not releasing the names of police officers involved in shootings two weeks ago, it was a shock to many, especially since the announcement came just days after Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed HB1538, legislation that would have required hiding the names.
But Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala quickly reassured the public that he would not be following that recommendation, and in fact, he never has.
“It is a recommendation—it’s not binding,” he said. “I don’t see by what reason that would not be something of interest to the public. We will not be bound by it. I have an obligation to advise the public in matters of public significance.”
Other recommendations the association made included securing the scene of a shooting for the independent agency; using the most current technology to process it; keeping the officers involved, as well as witnesses, separated prior to and during interviews about the incident; and, providing officers counseling and union representation.
And though the recommendation on withholding officers involved in shootings would seem to fly in the face of the move toward more government transparency, the association also recommended that in no cases should an officer’s department investigate such a shooting, that the inquiry be done by an outside agency. Not surprisingly, the association recommended district attorneys be that agency.