Police Abuse

Virginia Bill Would Exempt Cops' Names, Positions from FOIA Requests

After The Virginian-Pilot requested the names of all police officers in the state to track problem cops.

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soozarty1/flickr

A bill introduced in the Virginia state legislature would exempt law enforcement officers in the state from open records requests about their names, positions, job classifications, or any other "personal identifying information."

The exemption applies to state and local police departments and sheriff's offices, as well as special agents with Alcoholic Beverage Control, Virginia Marine Police, Department of Game and Inland Fisheries officers, Virginia Lotto investigators, Department of Conservation and Recreation officers, motor vehicles enforcement officials, and "animal protection police officers."

The Virginian-Pilot reports that Sen. John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake) told a subcommittee hearing that he introduced the bill as a response to a court ruling about The Virginian-Pilot's request for the names and positions of police officers across the state. The newspaper was compiling the information to "track officer movement from department to department" and examine "how often officers who got in trouble were able to find other jobs in law enforcement."

The response to such an idea should be the state trying to set up its own such registry, not to expand open records exemptions so far as to keep the identities of all law enforcement officials secret from the public.

Cosgrove insisted the exemption was for officer safety. "I think this FOIA exemption is probably needed just because we want to make sure their safety is assured," Cosgrove said of local police officers, "their families are not put at risk just because their information as law enforcement officers is available."

Neither Cosgrove nor more than a dozen other law enforcement officers, legislators, academics, or open government advocates could provide an example of a police officer being targeted after his name was found through an open records request. Cosgrove told the subcommittee he was "sure" such examples could be found. "All you have to do is talk to any police department. They probably have a good illustration of that happening."

The Pilot reports Virginia—which got an F and was ranked 38th by the Center for Public Integrity for access to public information—would be the first state with such a broad exemption for releasing the names of law enforcement government employees. Other states, like New Jersey and West Virginia, are exploring proposals of their own to shield the identity of some police officers from the public as a response to increased attention to incidents of police brutality around the country.

The state police union, which lobbies the legislature, supports the legislation, according to The Pilot. "What we're trying to do is move the ball to the greatest extent possible," executive director Wayne Huggins told The Poilot, "so as to provide protection and security for our folks."

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  1. The Pilot reports Virginia?which got an F and was ranked 38th by the Center for Public Integrity for access to public information

    They got an “F”, and were still 38th? So there were 19 12 states worse than them?

    We are well and truly fucked, aren’t we.

    1. F- and F- –

    2. The highest ranked state had a C. 34 states had a D. Though the criteria for these grades is on the extreme side IMO. One of which is does the state have a law requiring all FOIA requests be posted online in easy to access formats. I work elections in a medium size counties and our webpage is a disaster with outdated info dating back to 2012 and convincing the public to try electronic voting instead of paper ballots has been an uphill climb, I don’t think it’s feasible to get have a requirement like that when none of my coworkers even know what the cloud is.

      1. People like paper ballots so that they can’t be cheated at the push of a button.

  2. Virginia is for Cop Lovers

  3. I guess they’re not even pretending anymore.

  4. FYTW trumps FOIA. Big surprise.

  5. Neither Cosgrove nor more than a dozen other law enforcement officers, legislators, academics, or open government advocates could provide an example of a police officer being targeted after his name was found through an open records request. Cosgrove told the subcommittee he was “sure” such examples could be found. “All you have to do is talk to any police department. They probably have a good illustration of that happening.”

    Cosgrove nor any of the others could explain the concept of ‘burden of proof,’ but they were confident that information was on the internet for other people to find.

    1. “Cosgrove nor any of the others could explain the concept of ‘burden of proof,’ but they were confident that information was on the internet for other people to find.”

      ‘Don’t believe my claims about UFOs???? Well, just google it and you’ll see!!!!!!!!!’

  6. I’ve made $66,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. I’m using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money. It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it.

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  7. Virginia Lotto investigators

    I give up. What do *they* do?

    1. I got nuthin’. I can think of nothing illegal which a lottery vendor could do, except sell tickets to minors. If they print a ticket by accident, they have to pay for it (or convince the customer that he really wanted those extra numbers). Scratch tickets are just a commodity. You order 500, you pay for 500.

  8. I’m surprised they haven’t suggested cops wear masks and remove their name badges. In the name of officer safety, of course.

    1. Plenty of DEA agents already do that!

    2. And as we saw a few years back many officers cover their badge numbers with black tape when they’re working things like protests where they are likely to be photographed by too many people to confiscate all the photos.

  9. Sometimes man you jsut have to roll with it.

    http://www.Anon-Net.tk

  10. Kids, say hello to Officer Safety. He’s here to Fear For His Life? and shoot you for making a Furtive Movement? after Officer Friendly tells you about the dangers of butt-chugging, sexting, and other moral panics.

    1. Police officers have the safest jobs in the world. 2015 40 officers were killed and most of them killed themselves. 2015 the police assassinated 1200.00 citizens. Occupations more dangerous then police work: Truck drivers, pilots, roofers, fishers , loggers, electricians, trash collection, construction workers they don’t have special laws to protect them.

  11. This it’s such blatant bullshit. It’s for officer safety, alright, officer job safety.

  12. The drafters and supporting voters of legislation found later to be unconstitutional should be put to death for treason.

  13. If they’re not doing anything wrong, they have nothing to worry about.

  14. Giving special privileges to law enforcement officers is why they are able to murder unarmed and mentally ill citizens with no consequences. This being an elections year we should remove the politicians that allow Police and there unions to operate as armed militias. The system is already rigged with the rich, powerful and law enforcement criminals are allowed to prey on and shake down the american public. Profiting off the misery of US citizens is the result of special laws and privileges for one group over the other. Noting is more UN-american then the current two legal systems.

    1. “we should remove the politicians that allow police and there [sp.] unions to operate as armed militias”
      or go one step further and remove the people who elect the politicians who protect the cops.

  15. I am so sick of cops getting special privilege. They are put on a pedestal that is not deserving. Anonymity for cops is a disaster. Any person with an axe to grind will already know their name.

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