Bill To Withhold Names Of Arizona Police Officers Heads To Governor

By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 10:39am

It is now up to Gov. Doug Ducey whether Arizonans will be denied for 60 days the names of police officers who kill civilians.

The Senate on Tuesday gave final approval to legislation creating a special exception from laws which generally require public agencies, including police departments, to make information available on request. Sen. John Kavanagh, a former police officer, said the 60-day delay provides a cooling-off period.

"We live in a world where misinformation can put everybody in jeopardy, especially police officers. And until we can get the facts straight, we need to shield those cops and their families from being assassinated by lunatics or political zealots. And this bill does that," said Kavanagh. "This bill very simply conceals that name until the facts can come out so we don't have a dead cop, a dead cop's spouse or a dead cop's child."

But Sen. Martin Quezada said he's concerned about situations where a police officer might have acted too quickly or with too much force -- especially when the victim is a different race than the cop.

"We have a right to be angry in those situations. Because any life that is lost in those situations is a tragedy, whether it's the law enforcement officer's life, whether it's a suspect's life, even if that suspect is a hardened criminal, these are tragic situations," Quezada said. "But if it's in one of those gray areas, where this death didn't have to happen, we should have that access to that information and we should be able to demand accountability."

But Sen. Steve Smith said withholding the name and photograph of the officer involved does not undermine any of that.

"This bill is silent to your right to demand those answers or your right to be angry. You can be angry. You can demand. You can hold protests," said Smith. "You can do whatever you'd like. The only thing we are saying is, in some cases, not in all, some cases the name and the photo can be withheld for safety reasons."

But Quezada said that presumes that minority communities trust the police.

"And let me tell you, that work to establish that trust, it's not something that happens overnight. It takes years. It takes lots of effort to establish that trust," said Quezada. "And we're not quite there yet. We've made a lot of gains over the last several years. But we're not quite there yet."

An aide to the governor said he is reviewing the measure, which already has been approved by the House, and has made no decision whether or not to sign it.

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