A blog of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section

Senate

In Re: Order Amending Rules 906 and 1911 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure – No. 265 Appellate Procedural Rules Docket, concerning orders for transcripts, concerning preliminary arraignments.

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In Re: Order Amending Rule 540 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure No. 483 Criminal Procedural Rules Docket

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John P. Delaney appointed to Criminal Procedural Rules Committee

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Pennsylvania District Attorneys recommend guidelines for police shooting investigations

 

The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association Tuesday recommended that officer-involved shootings should be investigated by an independent agency and that the local District Attorney should provide the public with a written report following the completion of the investigation.

The recommendations are part of 16 guidelines established by Association’s Best Practices Committee dealing with processing, investigating and communicating determinations made in officer-involved shootings.

The Best Practices for Officer-Involved Shootings will provide prosecutors with recommendations to ensure investigations are conducted with independence and objectively. The guidelines are believed to be the first statewide guidelines for prosecutors produced in the United States.

The guidelines are the culmination of many months of work by the PDAA’s Best Practices Committee. Chaired by Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan, the committee collected and reviewed the responses to police-involved shootings by law enforcement and prosecutors nationwide.

The committee also sought the input of community groups, police organizations, and prosecutors in making 16 recommendations.

The 16 recommendations and guidelines cover the broad spectrum of responses required following an officer-involved shooting, ranging from which agency should investigate and processing the scene to interview best practices and communication with the public.

There are also specific measures related to the injured parties.

“We are very pleased with the initiative that the District Attorneys are undertaking here,” said Deacon Gary Wattie of St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Chester County. “This opens the curtains to the process which hopefully will get better buy-in to the outcome, regardless of what it is.”

Highlights of the PDAA Officer-Involved Shooting Investigation Best Practices and the 16 recommendations include:

1. Investigations Should Be Independent: To ensure the integrity of the investigation of an officer-involved shooting, investigations should be conducted by an agency separate and independent from the law enforcement agency involved in the shooting. Officer-involved shooting investigations deal with complex and difficult facts that must be dispassionately examined. Utilizing an agency not affiliated with the incident (for example, county detectives, the Pennsylvania State Police, or a neighboring jurisdiction) will reassure the public that the investigation was conducted without bias or direct connection to the officer(s) involved.

2. District Attorneys Should Direct Investigations: Under the Commonwealth Attorneys Act, the District Attorney is charged with determining if any shooting is justified or if charges should be filed. Just as the DA must adjudicate and determine charges related to other shootings and violent crimes in their communities, their practical experience and professional responsibilities are vital components in the interviews and evidence-gathering that must take place following an officer-involved shooting. Accordingly, the recommendation is that the DA’s office directs officer-involved shooting investigations.

3. On-Site Safety and Security Is Essential: The first issue at every officer-involved shooting scene is the safety and security of all those involved and the community. Once the threat is neutralized, officers at the scene must render aid immediately to any and all injured parties. If a person is deceased at the scene, the police should shield the body from public view.

4. Utilize Best-Available Technology to Process the Scene: Officer-involved shooting scenes are often large and confusing. Detailed evidentiary review and documentation of the scene is the first and essential step to determining the facts, including the use of 3-D mapping of the entire scene. It also is important to capture and review all possible video recordings of the incident, including police recordings, recordings from nearby businesses or homes, and civilian recordings.

5. Communicate with the Public: The District Attorney may give a preliminary report on the status of the event after it happens, understanding that the detailed investigation may uncover more evidence. Once the full investigation has been completed, the District Attorney should report the findings to the public.

These guidelines do not address use-of-force policies for law enforcement. The use of force laws already have been addressed in detail by Pennsylvania statutes (18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §501 et seq.) and the United States Supreme Court (Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989)).

Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan stated, “The PDAA guidelines for officer-involved shootings reflect a straightforward, common sense, and balanced approach to these difficult events. Fortunately, many of the counties in Pennsylvania already have adopted these guidelines, so they have been tested and reviewed under the glare of real-life situations, and have been used successfully to reach fair and just outcomes.”

The PDAA’s Best Practices Committee serves as a collaborative, non-partisan network to identify best practices, research, and legal methods to assist in the proper and just evolution of the criminal justice system.

Created in 2014, the committee formalized the Association’s long history of identifying and promoting reforms and efficiencies in order to protect the innocent, convict the guilty, and ensure justice for the victims of crime.

The Best Practices Committee will periodically release other proposed best practices addressing important issues.

Last spring, it released guidelines regarding eyewitness identification. Other issues currently being reviewed by the Committee are body-worn cameras and recorded interviews.

(From Crisci Associates PA Capitol Digest)

House Subcommittee on Courts ends impeachment inquiry on Kathleen Kane, makes recommendations to improve Office of Attorney General

The House Subcommittee On Courts Thursday released a 5-page report by the four Republican members of the Subcommittee making recommendations on how to prevent actions in the future like those that happened to deter and, in some cases, prevent staff members from the Office of the Attorney General from fulfilling their duties under convicted Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

The Subcommittee stopped short of recommending Kane’s impeachment because she has already resigned and stands convicted of criminal charges.

The subcommittee’s recommendations include:

— Requiring the Attorney General of Pennsylvania at all times to possess a valid license to practice law in Pennsylvania, and requiring anyone who is contracted or employed by the attorney general’s office to provide legal services possess a valid license to practice law in Pennsylvania.

— Prohibiting attorneys in the Office of Attorney General from maintaining a private law practice.

— Clarifying that the first deputy shall be at the top of the chain of command and assume any duties the attorney general cannot fulfill.

— Providing for greater legislative oversight over government agencies to investigate wrongdoing and provide accountability and transparency.

— Providing an avenue for whistleblowers to report wrongdoing outside their own agency.

— Providing greater protections for whistleblowers.

— Providing explicit protections for individuals who cooperate with a legislative investigation.

— Reviewing the provisions concerning grand jury secrecy to prevent someone from using it as a shield to prevent accountability and/or transparency.

The investigation by the Subcommittee and resulting report were authorized by the adoption of House Resolution 659 (Everett-R-Lycoming).

Kathleen Kane served as attorney general from January 2013 until her resignation on August 16, 2016, following a jury verdict finding her guilty of perjury and other offenses the day before.

A copy of the report is available online.

(From Crisci Associates PA Capitol Digest)

Session Schedule

Senate

January 3 (swearing in day), 23, 24, 25, 30, 31

February 1, 6, 7, 8

March 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29

April 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26

May 8, 9, 10, 22, 23, 24

June 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30

House

January 3 (swearing in day), 23, 24, & 25.

February 6, 7, & 8.

March 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, & 22.

April 3, 4, 5 , 18, 19, 24, 25, & 26.

May 8, 9, 10, 22, 23, & 24.

June 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29, & 30

(From Crisci Associates PA Capitol Digest)

Weeks Ahead

December 7-8– Commission On Sentencing.  See formal notice in the November 26 PA Bulletin for locations and time details.

December 10– Pennsylvania Society Dinner. Waldorf-Astoria, New York.

January 3– Opening Day Of 2017-18 Legislative Session.

(From Crisci Associates PA Capitol Digest)

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December 7, 1941.  Pearl Harbor attacked. U.S. enters World War II.

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