The Pennsylvania primary is finally behind us. Whether your candidates won or lost, we can likely all agree that we can use a respite from the barrage of televised election commercials, fliers and social-media postings. Until the fall!
In that time, there are a number of issues the community can turn its attention to, namely the ongoing fight to restrict the rights of transgender citizens. Our neighbors to the South continue to be burdened with having to fend off the impacts of ignorance. LGBTs and allies facing so-called “religious-freedom” or “bathroom” bills are tasked with educating the public about equal access, which should be a basic tenet of our society.
Locally, Philadelphia has come out strong against such trends and, as of yet, the state legislature has not made any moves to restrict LGBT access. State lawmakers have, however, advanced a measure that would limit access to information regarding 911 calls.
With HB 1310, which the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee approved earlier this spring, “identifying information” about 911 callers could not be released to the public. The bill includes such information as the caller’s name, phone number and location.
On its face, the measure may seem to protect victims’ rights — but that is an erroneous assumption. Names, addresses and more are routinely broadcast across police blotters, rendering that portion of the bill relatively useless.
However, HB 1310 is more than superfluous. It would restrict the public’s right to access information such as police time-response logs — a tool to hold emergency responders accountable. It is imperative that emergency response times are not only tracked but transparent; the public has a right to know if there are discrepancies and opportunities for improvement.
This is an issue with particular relevance for PGN and the LGBT community. For nearly 14 years, we have sought transparency in the homicide investigation of Nizah Morris, a local trans woman who was killed shortly after receiving a police courtesy ride. Police-response logs have been integral to this case, as they can provide verifiable information about officers’ locations and assignments. We continue to push for open access to information in this case and others; efforts that would be stymied by HB 1310.
We urge the LGBT community to contact your state lawmakers and urge them to vote no on HB 1310.