Law Would Shield Cop IDs for 60 Days After Shooting

Critics of Arizona bill are calling it an attack on transparency
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 23, 2015 11:40 AM CDT
If the bill goes through, police officers' identities could be shielded for up to 60 days after a shooting.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) Darren Wilson went into hiding after shooting Michael Brown, and when a Phoenix cop killed an unarmed black man in December, police were afraid protesters would mob his home, NBC News reports. The latter never happened, but Arizona Rep. Steven Smith is sponsoring Senate Bill 1445, which would keep secret for 60 days the names of officers involved in shootings "that [result] in death or serious physical injury." "This is about protecting the welfare of an officer who is not a suspect," the director of the Arizona Police Association tells NBC. But critics say the law would undermine the tenuous relationship between police and community and possibly hide abuse or mistakes. "At a time when the entire country is raising legitimate questions about why so many black men are dying at the hands of police, the state of Arizona is … becoming less transparent," the director of the ACLU of Arizona tells NBC.

An officer's name can still be released before the 60-day moratorium is up if the family or department OKs it, or if the officer is charged. And the bill has been amended from its original 90-day freeze—it passed in the House 44-13 last week and now heads back in amended form to the Senate, per the Eastern Arizona Courier. Protesters in the capital Wednesday refuted Smith's assertion that the law would stop a "whimsical mob [from] roaming the streets looking for blood" and noted there are already laws that allow for such secrecy if the officer is in danger, the Phoenix New Times reports. "This is being packaged as a cooling-off period; what many people in the community believe is this could build a covering-up period," Democratic state Rep. Reginald Bolding tells NBC. "The beauty of our Public Records Law is its reliance on common sense, not arbitrary prohibitions," adds David Bodney in an op-ed for the Arizona Republic. (Read more Arizona stories.)

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