AZ Capitol Building

Arizona Bill To Conceal Police Identities Involved In Use-Of-Force Incidents Meets Public Opposition

Senate Bill 1445, legislation that would delay releasing identities of police officers involved in serious use-of-force incidents, passed the Arizona House of Representatives last Wednesday with a 44-13 vote. The bill has been met with opposition from residents and civil rights advocates who seek transparency from police departments.

SB 1445 would limit “the release of the name of a peace officer who is involved in a use of deadly physical force incident for 60 days.” The bill would also require departments to redact identifiers in reports that contain information regarding disciplinary actions against involved officers. The 60-day delay would not apply when a criminal investigation is completed or if state criminal procedure requires the release of information. The delay is also voided if an involved officer is arrested, charged or indicted on charges related to the incident. An officer may bypass the delay by consenting to identification in writing.

An earlier version of the bill, which passed the Arizona Senate in February 23-6, had contained a longer delay of 90 days.

According to The Phoenix New Times, SB 1445 sponsor Arizona state Senator Steve Smith said that the bill was introduced to prevent a “whimsical mob” from “roaming the streets looking for blood.” Opponents of the bill have pointed out that no Arizona officers involved in deadly use-of-force incidents have recently been injured as a result of public identification.

Supporters of SB 1445 call the 60-day delay a “cooling-off period” for the public. Former Phoenix police officer and Arizona Police Association executive director Levi Bolton said the bill will protect the welfare of police officers who are not suspects. “You still get the ‘when,’ the ‘where’ and the ‘how’ if we know it — you just don’t get the ‘who,'” Bolton said.

ACLU of Arizona executive director Alessandra Soler said that providing the names of officers involved in serious or fatal use-of-force incidents helps public trust in police departments, and passing this legislation would be harmful to oversight. “Police officers have an extraordinary power because they can detain, search, arrest and have the ability to shoot to kill,” she said. “That is when the transparency and accountability needs to be the strongest.”

“We need to be building trust and confidence between a community and police who protect it,” said Jeremy Helfgot, commissioner for the city of Phoenix Commission on Human Relations. “This is the Arizona Legislature inserting itself into that process and widening the gap, rather than making an effort of closing it.”

The bill is also opposed by the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police because police chiefs would no longer have the ability to use discretion when releasing names.

The ACLU of Arizona is hosting a rally scheduled for Tuesday, March 24th at 4:00 p.m. outside of the Arizona Executive Tower. Members of the Maricopa County branch of the NAACP, the Greater Phoenix Urban League and the Puente Human Rights Movement will reportedly be present at the rally in an effort to encourage Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to veto the bill.