Sunday, 15 February 2015

"Cooling Off" Law Proposed To Keep Police Officers’ Names Secret For 90 Days After Shootings

Even though there have been numerous objections raised to SB 1445, the state Senate committee advanced a bill Wednesday that would keep the names of police officers’ secret after shootings.
Law enforcement agencies would be permitted to withhold names of officers involved in shootings for 90 days after incidences of deadly force.
The Tucson Sentinel reports that SB 1445 “would apply unless the officer is arrested or charged, a criminal investigation is complete, the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure require the release, or the officer consents to the release.”
The bill was drafted by Senator Steve Smith (R-Maricopa), who said that his goal in writing the legislation is “to protect officers and their families.”
“This bill came because we are trying to protect those who protect us,” he explained.
Smith says that 90 days would be a good enough “cooling-off” period where public unrest should dissipate on its own.
Steve Henry, the chief deputy for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, gave an example of a deputy who shot and killed a suspect after a lengthy, high-speed chase. He received numerous death threats after he was identified 30 days later.
“The fallout from that was death threats to his family, death threats to himself, constantly having to look over his shoulder,” Henry rationalized to the Senate Public Safety, Military and Technology Committee.
Countering this position, Representative Reginald Bolding (D-Phoenix), told the committee that keeping police officers’ names secret reduces transparency and would lead to greater resentment in the community.
“It does not build trust, it does not build transparency, it does not provide accountability,” he explained. “It actually does the opposite.”
A former state lawmaker representing the Maricopa County NAACP, Sandra Kennedy, added that the change reduces the public trust in police.
“When there is no transparency, then the public assumes there is a cover-up,” she explained. “Then comes loss of trust.”
Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio said said that the officer in the December incident also faced protesters picketing his home.
“It’s not just about the protection of the officer,” he rationalized. “It’s about the protection of the family.”
But protesting outside of someone’s home is a matter of freedom of speech.
After hearing the arguments, the committee endorsed the bill on a 3-1 vote and forwarded it to the full Senate.
“I am not going to mortgage an officer’s life or family because somebody else thinks they have a right to that information,” Smith said. “They might not know what might directly cause a reaction to that and have a member of their family die.”