Pennsylvania DA’s issue guidelines for investigating officer-involved shootings

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HARRISBURG, Pa. --  Who should handle the investigation after an officer involved shooting?

In Pennsylvania , the state's district attorneys association recommends the police shouldn't police themselves.

The organization released 16 new guidelines which recommend how police investigate shootings involving some of their own.

District attorneys may take a more active role in investigating officer-involved shootings.

Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said "what is and isn't justified, for an average citizen if they use force, and we should be the ones doing the investigation."

There are many questions after an officer fires a gun at suspect.

"They're called to make split second decisions and we come in in our Monday morning quarterbacking those decisions, but we do that in other cases, if it's two citizens that are involved in a shooting," Marsico said.

The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association suggests local police agencies shouldn't investigate themselves after an officer-involved shooting.

"These aren't binding, the recommendations, but it would take it out of the hands of the local police department, saying give it to the DA's office, or give it to Pennsylvania State police for the investigation," Marsico said.

ACLU of Pennsylvania Legislative Director Andy Hoover said "this really is a glass that is half full and half empty.  It makes sense to have another department separate from the one that was involved in the shooting handling the investigation."

Another recommendation suggests separating the officers involved from each other.

"Common sense to have officers that are involved in the incident separated until they could be interviewed. You don't want a situation where they can collaborate on making up a story," Hoover said.

Hoover is concerned that having district attorneys investigate a local officer involved shooting may not be separate enough.

"Because local DA's, whether it's fair or not, can give the appearance of having too much of a connection with the local police that are being investigated," Hoover said.

For people involved with different aspects of the law, these guidelines may be a place to start.

"With the last couple years, with Ferguson, with Baltimore, the climate for these types of investigations has changed dramatically," Marsico said.

"The most important thing here is that the public can trust the process," Hoover said.

Another concern Hoover has is that the guidelines recommend keeping an officer's identity confidential until the DA's office makes a ruling

"Victims do have civil remedies in civil court, and so if an officer is not named it makes it more difficult for someone to pursue that remedy," Hoover said.

For counties that don't have the detective staff to take on these additional investigations, the guidelines recommend the Pennsylvania State Police or separate municipal police department could take over.