Arizona Senate Passes Bill to Delay Releasing Identities of Police Involved in Shootings

Senate_Chamber_webThe Arizona Senate yesterday passed a bill that would significantly delay the release of the identities of officers involved in deadly shootings.
Senate Bill 1445 would keep the officer’s identity under wraps for 90 days following any incident “that involves the use of deadly physical force,” and results in the death or serious injury of a civilian or police officer.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Steve Smith, has said of the bill, “This is by no means meant to withhold information from the media.”

His reasoning is that there are caveats of when the officer’s name can be released, like if the police officer has been formally charged with a crime, or the criminal investigation into the shooting has been completed, the court requires the disclosure, or the officer consents to having his or her name released.

If it’s an act of “heroism,” Smith explained, a department could immediately release the officer’s name with his or her consent.

The bill’s “simply meant to protect an officer and his family,” Smith explained at a committee hearing, adding that the bill’s “not meant to hide if there’s any indiscretion.”

The bill easily passed the Senate on a 23-6 vote.

SB 1445 was proposed in response to a couple of high-profile shootings, one in Phoenix, and one in Pinal County.

The Pinal County shooting was last year in Eloy, and the deputy’s name was released after local TV station KPHO aired a witness’ cell phone video of the shooting. The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office accused KPHO of “doctoring” the video, and a media-criticism website seemed to agree that the video was altered.

“The deputy was tried in the court of public opinion,” Pinal County Chief Deputy Steve Henry explained to a Senate committee. The deputy received death threats, and there was a 24-hour security detail on his home for two weeks after his name was released. Perhaps the negative attention could have been mitigated if there was a “cooling off period,” Henry said.

“There are no secrets anymore,” Henry said. “There’s really a difficult position we’re put in with social media.”

Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio also testified in favor of the bill, who said there were threats against a Phoenix officer after a fatal shooting here. He didn’t identify which shooting, but slammed then-Police Chief Daniel Garcia (whom he didn’t mention by name) for releasing the officer’s name.

“It was a very arrogant attitude [from the police chief] like, ‘We have nothing to hide,'” DiCiccio said. “Well, of course, because your home is not out there. It was the police officer’s home out there. I did not see the police chief at the time give out his address.”

The bill would still need to be passed by the House before being sent to the governor.

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