Arizona moves one step closer to shielding police officer names
by Carol Thompson
Arizona lawmakers advanced a bill that would shield for 90 days the names of police officers involved in use-of-force incidents. The House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee passed Senate Bill S 1445 March 5 by a 7-2 vote.
Under the bill, the names could be released earlier if the officer agrees, if a criminal investigation ends or if the officer has been arrested or charged.
The intent is to protect an officer when a shooting inflames passions, such as the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. But Arizona law already allows it, entrusting police chiefs to exercise judgment. Bill S 1445, however, goes further and shields the officer’s name from the public despite the judgment of the chief.
The Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police oppose the bill reportedly stating that its members recognize responsibility to their communities requires them to exercise discretion and balance interests.
The bill was authored by Sen. Steve Smith (R-Maricopa) who has said he introduced the legislation to prevent death threats and harassment of officers involved in shootings. It is intended to allow time to avoid the type of unrest that happened in Ferguson, following the deadly shooting of an unarmed Black teen by a White police officer, he said.
Supporters of the bill claim the 90-day window is “a cooling off period,” and keeps the involved officer, and the officer’s family, safe.
Opponents of the bill say the legislation would make it more difficult to scrutinize police officers’ performance and that it does not further “a legitimate state interest.” Others claim it would replace fact with speculation and rumor and remove government transparency.
Lawmakers passed the bill following three hours of debate.
The bill will next be under a routine constitutional review before being heard on the House floor.
Image: Flickr/ Dan Shouse