Shootings by police officers make the headlines, especially when they occur under questionable circumstances. People get upset when people are shot by police—especially, again, when they occur under questionable circumstances. When people get upset at police officers, they sometimes say mean things about them on Facebook and Twitter. And that is why Arizona police officers' names have to be kept secret after they're involved in shootings. Because mean tweets.
Well, OK. It's because somebody might eventually do something other than vent through social media.
From the Arizona Republic:
Pinal County Chief Deputy Steve Henry was in support of the bill Wednesday and said he thinks the public needs a "cooling off" period after officer-involved shootings. Henry said a Pinal County sheriff's deputy who was subjected to mean-spirited social-media posts after an officer-involved shooting drove Henry to that conclusion.
"There are no secrets anymore," Henry said. "We are in a difficult position with social media."
What bill does Deputy Henry support? Glad you asked. He supports SB 1445, which would prevent the release of the names of police officers involved in incidents that result in serious injury or death for 90 days so that they can avoid the slings and arrows of unfriendly Facebook posts.
Asked at a hearing about the need for such a measure, given that nobody has come up with an example of officers harmed other than feelings-wise by the publication of their names, sponsor Sen. Steve Smith (R-Maricopa) answered, "Should we wait for an officer to die to do something?"
Well, you never can be too safe, I suppose.
After the 90 days runs out, such officers names could be released if:
a) the peace officer has been arrested or formally charged by complaint, information or indictment for actions related to the incident;
b) the criminal investigation of the incident is complete;
c) the peace officer consents in writing to the release; or
d) an Arizona rule of criminal procedure requires the release.
Given that one common complaint about law enforcement agencies is that internal investigations of officer misconduct too often drag out until finally concluding that there's nothing to see here so move along, conditions "a" and "b" might be enough to turn 90 days into something better measured by carbon dating. Condition "c" just ain't gonna happen. So the bill looks like a pretty solid effort to shield cops from public scrutiny.
After the hearing, SB 1445 won approval from the Arizona Senate Committee on Public Safety, Military, and Technology. Sen. Smith's office did not respond to a request for comment by press time.