Trib editorial: State police must change self-investigation policy on use of lethal force
Who polices the police? When Pennsylvania State Police fatally shoot people, troopers police themselves — under a policy of keeping control of investigations that’s drawing sharp criticism from the district attorney and a grand jury in Northampton County.
The grand jury found two troopers were justified in fatally shooting a man who threatened to ignite fireworks strapped around his neck last May. But at DA John Morganelli’s behest, the grand jury also investigated that policy.
It found troopers have “a somewhat arrogant opinion of their own superiority” — and that the two troopers involved in that fatal shooting weren’t interviewed by investigating colleagues until 30 days later, and after being allowed to view dash-cam footage of the incident. They received “courtesy not afforded to others who are the subject of a criminal investigation,” the grand jury said.
It does not reflect well on state police that the agency went to court to suppress those grand-jury findings. Thankfully, a judge rejected that attempt to deny the public’s right to know.
Independent investigations of any police use of lethal force help boost transparency and avoid conflicts of interest — which, as Mr. Morganelli notes, are especially important considerations at a time when police are coming under increasing scrutiny. As Pennsylvania’s leading law enforcers, state police must be accountable to the public, not just themselves. They must drop their fatal-shooting policy in favor of one that requires independent investigations.