Rhode Island moves to withhold police shooters' names

Hannah Bergman | Freedom of Information | Reaction | June 10, 2009

The Rhode Island legislature is considering a bill that would block release of the names of police officers who are involved in shootings until after investigations are complete.

The bill to amend the state's public records law, H. 6165, was proposed in response to the fallout from a 2007 police shooting, according to the Providence Journal. Backers of the bill say it allows the officers time to deal with the situation and relieves them of public pressure. But detractors argue that police shootings ought to be treated no differently from other shootings, in which the police routinely release the names of the people responsible.

Withholding the officer’s name also diminishes accountability for the shooting. It leaves the public unable to ensure that officers with a history of problems and questionable judgment in the use of force aren’t patrolling the streets. As officers routinely point out, a community's faith in its police force plays a vital role in public safety.

Earlier this year, the Baltimore Police Department abruptly announced it would no longer release the names of its offers who injure or kill people.