PA police protection bill on the move again as governor floats compromise amendment

A bill shielding Pennsylvania cops from public identification during police-involved shooting investigations may soon see a compromise amendment on the Senate floor, silencing the governor’s overtures to block it.

When it passed the House in March, House Bill 27, sponsored by Philadelphia Republican Rep. Martina White, faced certain veto from Gov. Tom Wolf, who rejected an identical measure in 2015.

Now, Wolf spokesperson J.J. Abbott says the administration is considering an amendment to remedy some of the governor’s concerns, though he did not divulge its specific details.

“We are considering an amendment, but that process is still ongoing,” Abbott told Capitolwire Tuesday.

HB 27 mandates police departments withhold the names of officers involved in police shootings and other “violent confrontations” for 30 days, or until criminal charges have been filed or an investigation has been completed. Officials who break this rule would face a second-degree misdemeanor charge.

Under current law, departments follow individual policies regarding the release of officer information. The Philadelphia police, for example, releases an officer’s name within 72 hours.

The bill’s detractors argue such policies should remain a local issue and shielding an officer’s name during an investigation lacks the transparency required of public officials — a point Wolf reiterated when he vetoed the same bill in November 2015.

“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,” he said.

Despite the administration’s veto threat, House lawmakers sent the bill to the Senate in March on a vote of 157-39.

Sen. James Brewster, D-Allegheny, minority chairman on the Senate Law and Justice Committee, said Tuesday the administration approached Senate Democrats about a compromise amendment for the bill, according to Capitolwire.

Majority Committee Chair Sen. Charles McIlhinney, R-Bucks, confirmed he, too, heard of a looming compromise, though opted to move the bill Tuesday so it could be amended on the floor.

“We’re certainly open to something that would get the governor’s signature on the bill,” he said, per Capitolwire.

The committee approved the measure 9-3 Tuesday. No final vote has been scheduled.