By Austin Nolen
The Philadelphia Police Department no longer plans to have state troopers independently investigate all officer involved shootings in the city.
During a press conference last December on the Philadelphia Police collaborative reform partnership with the federal Department of Justice, then-Commissioner Charles Ramsey announced a new initiative. The Police Department, he said, was working on an agreement with the State Police to have troopers act as investigators of all police shootings in the City.
The Declaration can now reveal exclusively that the negotiations to reach this agreement fell through, leaving the City without an independent agency to investigate shootings by its officers.
In a statement, Philadelphia Police said that “the investigations surrounding officer involved shootings are one of the remaining reform measures that we are working to accomplish; however, the attempt to create a system with the PA State Police didn’t come to fruition as originally suggested.”
According to the Department, “the efforts to create this type of system faced a few challenges such as overcoming the collective bargaining issues raised by the union as well as some logistical issues for the State Police.”
One of the primary roles of the Pennsylvania State Police is to provide policing and investigative services to local authorities. As then-Commissioner Ramsey noted last December, state troopers currently investigate police shootings in some smaller communities.
Investigating police shootings in Philadelphia would be a different matter, however. Ramsey noted the challenges posed by the large size of the Philadelphia department when he stated that “it’s not practical to have small agencies to take on that role.”
Apparently, State Police leadership did not think that their agency had the resources to take on that role either.
The Department of Justice did not suggest the use of an independent investigating agency. Rather, local police officials viewed the independent agency as a possible way to solve several other federal recommendations about improving shooting investigations.
Philadelphia Police say they are now “moving forward in pursuing other measures to create a bifurcated process within the department to investigate officer involved shootings.”
Kelvyn Anderson, who monitors the collaborative reform process as the executive director of Philadelphia’s Police Advisory Commission, said in a statement that “creating a system to enable third party criminal investigations of police shootings is a major institutional challenge not only for police, but the entire criminal justice system.”
Nevertheless, Anderson praised police efforts, stating that PAC “applauds Commissioner Richard Ross and the PPD’s continued dedication to police reforms specified in the DOJ’s collaborative reform review.”
A spokesperson for the State Police declined to comment for this story. A spokesperson for Mayor Kenney said the mayor concurred with the Police Department’s statement.