Burns supports 30-day moratorium on releasing police officer names

Disagrees with governor’s veto of bill to protect identities until charges are filed

EBENSBURG, Nov. 22 – As a firm believer that people are innocent until proven guilty, state Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, disagrees with Gov. Tom Wolf’s recent veto of a bill that would have  better protected police officers in the current incendiary and often reactionary social climate.

Burns voted for H.B. 1538 when it passed the House 151-32 earlier this year. It would have prohibited police departments from releasing the identities of officers who discharged a gun or used force against someone in cases resulting in death or serious injury, until that officer was either charged with a crime or 30 days had passed.

“While I am for full transparency in government, we must also consider the need for a cooling off period in situations where tensions run high,” Burns said. “With the propensity in some quarters to rush to judgment before all the facts are in, we are putting the lives and safety of police officers, as well as their families, in unnecessary jeopardy by prematurely releasing their names.”

Burns said the bill, which sailed through the Senate 39-9, was overwhelmingly supported by both chambers of the legislature and should have been signed into law.

“It obviously had bipartisan support, as well as support from the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police,” Burns said. “No one is saying, ‘Never release the names.’ Supporters of this bill, like me, are saying, ‘Don’t release the names prematurely, before investigations are completed.’ It’s a matter of basic fairness.”

Separately, Burns is the sponsor of H.B. 2261, a Blue Lives Matter bill that would elevate assaults on law enforcement to hate-crime status in Pennsylvania. The bill, which he plans to reintroduce in January after it stalled in the Republican-controlled House this summer, would cover police, corrections, probation and parole officers.