Phila. police to release names in police shootings

Posted: July 03, 2015

Philadelphia police will begin releasing the names of officers in police-involved shootings, Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said Wednesday.

The move - a first for the department - is in line with recommendations issued by the Department of Justice and the presidential policing task force Ramsey led.

Under the new policy, the department will release the officer's name within 72 hours of a police-involved shooting, unless there is a threat against the officer or family members.

The department has long declined to release the names of officers involved in shootings, citing safety concerns.

In a memo obtained by The Inquirer and sent to each police district - to be read at roll call for three consecutive days - Ramsey wrote that the department will now "evaluate each incident to determine that no threats are made to the officer or members of their family prior to the release of this information."

Ramsey said that the department plans to release a more formal directive that outlines policy on releasing the names of officers involved in shootings. The policy does not apply to shootings that took place before the memo was issued, police said.

The department does not plan to release witness statements or documents related to shootings in that 72-hour period, police said. It will continue to post preliminary reports on the incident on its website.

Kelvyn Anderson, head of the city's Police Advisory Commission, a citizen oversight board, called the new policy "a big step" but still "another item on a very long list that needs to be dealt with."

"This has been a major issue for a lot of the protests that have occurred in our city," he said. "People believe, rightfully, that the public has a right to know who these officers are."

Anderson was referring to the shooting of Brandon Tate-Brown, who was killed by 15th District Officer Nicholas Carelli during a traffic stop last December.

Carelli has been cleared in the shooting; his name was not released until last month, when the city made a number of documents in the Tate-Brown shooting publicly available.

But for months before the release of those documents, Tate-Brown's family and its supporters had called for the department to reveal the shooting officer's name. "Who killed Brandon Tate-Brown?" became a recurring chant at rallies and protests around the city.

Anderson said the commission is hopeful that Ramsey's memo signals a move toward increased transparency in the department. The commission, he said, has been working on an agreement with the department to receive more files on police shootings.

Releasing the names of officers involved in shootings was one of 91 recommendations by the Department of Justice's Community-Oriented Policing office this year. Ramsey asked for a review of his department's use-of-force policies after police-involved shootings spiked in 2013.

He said the department had been "pretty busy" working to implement the recommendations, with a captain and a small staff assigned full-time to oversee that process.

All of the department's planned changes, Ramsey said, are "interconnected," but he added he expects the department's training policies to see some of the most dramatic changes. Officers will be required to undergo firearms qualifications twice a year, as well as reality-based training.


awhelan@philly.com

215-854-2961 @aubreyjwhelan

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