One of a citizen’s most valuable tools in his local community is oversight on government activity — learning what public officials do on behalf of the community and holding those officials accountable for their actions.
A new Baltimore Police Department policy will end citizens’ rights to learn the names of officers who kill or injure people, eviscerating their oversight on some of the gravest matters in local, internal policing.
Not only does this deny access to otherwise public information concerning officers whose job it is to serve their communities, but it also undermines the public trust in the police. The more informed a citizenry, the more it can support decisions made on its behalf — including the sometimes-necessary use of force in protecting a community. Citizens need transparency to know that proper investigations and reviews are undergone each time an officer uses deadly force. It shores up their confidence when action is proper and helps ensure change when it’s improper.
By closing off the public from bearing witness to such important police action taken on a citizen’s behalf, the Baltimore Police are doing their city a great disservice. Of course, without access to information about that police action, citizens may never know quite the extent to which they’re being dis-served.