Our opinion: State’s efforts at transparency

We can respect the concerns that led Gov. Josh Shapiro to decline to intervene in a debate about public access to a state Police database of certified police officers.

The state “has no way of knowing which officers” listed in the database “are putting their lives on the line in dangerous undercover or covert operations,” Will Simons, Shapiro’s communications director, told Spotlight PA.

Protecting police officers who are serving in undercover roles is incredibly important. We agree that the perimeters of the request by a coalition of news outlets were likely too broad and the governor’s concerns are correct.

But we also believe that keeping our government — our entire government, including law enforcement — accountable requires a commitment to transparency.

And we have our own concerns about this governor’s commitment to that transparency. We’ve had those concerns since his inauguration in January, when we learned his transition team had been expected to sign non-disclosure agreements. As we editorialized at the time, we all should have reservations about nondisclosure agreements impeding the ability of voters to assess how elected officials are performing in their jobs.

In April we learned his panel to draft climate change policy was meeting in secret, with recording notes or minutes. In June we learned Shapiro was reversing the Wolf administration’s policies and would not be releasing his daily calendar to the public.

Requiring his transition team to sign non-disclosure agreements, allowing an advisory panel on climate change to meet in secret, hiding his calendar of daily activities from the taxpaying public — no one can pretend any of these corrosive steps protect the safety of undercover cops.

We hope Shapiro finds a compromise so that more of the database can be accessible to the public while still protecting police. More importantly we hope the governor can come to terms with how wrong and unethical the degree of secrecy he is embracing is, and will reverse course.


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