Unanswered Questions Surround Police Shooting Incident: A Call for Transparency and Accountability

(Allentown, PA) - In a recent and tragic incident near downtown Allentown, police officers fatally shot Dominick Hogans, a 27-year-old resident of the city. According to Allentown police, the officers opened fire after Hogans fired at them, leading to his death at a local hospital less than an hour later. However, as days pass, crucial questions remain unanswered, particularly concerning the status of the officers involved.

The Allentown Police Department released a news release promptly on the morning of the incident, around 9:15 a.m., shortly after Hogans' death. Despite the initial statement, the department has since refrained from providing any further information or updates regarding the shooting. Top officials have avoided responding to inquiries about the officers' current duty status, raising concerns about transparency and accountability.

Compounding the lack of information, Police Chief Charles Roca conveyed that the department would not be disclosing any additional details. Likewise, Assistant Police Chief Michael Becker declined to address questions, leaving the public in the dark regarding the officers' leave status after discharging their weapons.

The Allentown Police Department's use-of-force policy mandates that officers involved in incidents resulting in death or serious physical injury must be placed on administrative leave or duty until they are deemed ready to return to active duty by a mental health professional and the Chief of Police.

Critics, including the Lehigh Valley Justice Institute (LVJI), an independent research, policy, and advocacy group, emphasize the necessity of transparency in such cases. Joe Welsh, the founder and executive director of LVJI, expressed concern over the department's silence on whether the officers were on paid administrative leave, questioning the potential compromise of an ongoing investigation as the only legitimate reason for withholding such information.

While acknowledging that certain details may need to be withheld during an investigation, Welsh advocated for maximum transparency to avoid the public drawing conclusions based on limited information.

"When a police officer's use of force results in such grave consequences, it behooves everyone to have as much transparency as possible, given all the considerations of an investigation," Welsh stated. He stressed that the goal should be a comprehensive investigation that leaves no stone unturned, providing the community with confidence that proper procedures were followed.

The incident highlights broader discussions about the need for greater police transparency and accountability across the United States. Following high-profile cases like George Floyd's killing in 2020, demands for data collection and disclosure have amplified. The LVJI published a report in August 2021 advocating for local police departments to track and publish data on officers' use of force. According to the LVJI, data transparency protects both community members and officers.

Welsh underscored the significance of publishing data on incidents where officers use force, particularly when firearms are involved. He acknowledged the challenging nature of split-second decisions but emphasized the importance of sharing comprehensive information once thorough investigations are complete.

To promote transparency, some law enforcement agencies have implemented data dashboards to disclose information after use-of-force incidents. For instance, the New York Police Department's Force Dashboard, which the Allentown Police Chief aims to adopt, offers data on incidents involving officers' use of force against civilians and vice versa.

Welsh expressed hope that the Allentown Police Department would develop its own dashboard, offering the public a better view of the frequency and outcomes of use-of-force incidents within the department. Transparency, in Welsh's view, is crucial in assuring the community that the use of lethal force remains a last resort.

In conclusion, the Allentown police shooting incident underlines the necessity for transparency and accountability in law enforcement. The public's trust hinges on open communication, thorough investigations, and the disclosure of relevant data. The implementation of data dashboards could be a step forward in fostering trust and understanding between the police and the communities they serve.


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