Apex court’s ruling highlights police’s accountability to the public
The California Supreme Court's recent ruling that police agencies must let the public know the identities of officers involved in on-duty shootings has once again highlighted need and importance of police's accountability to the public.
In the ruling, the apex court declared that the Public Records Act doesn't exempt the names of officers involved in shootings. Advocates of open government welcomed the ruling, saying it was a clear victory for public scrutiny and police accountability, which are essential for proper functioning of a democracy.
Pronouncing the verdict, the court said, "We reject that blanket rule." However, it added, "Understandable are the general safety concerns of officers who fear retaliation from angry members of the community after an officer-involved shooting."
That means a police department can hide the names of such officers involved in shootings in certain situations, such as when it is necessary to keep sensitive information secret, and if an officer's safety is at risk.
On the other hand, police unions have been arguing that that any scrutiny of officers involved in a shooting, including the mere disclosure of their names, could put them in danger. In many instances, gangs attacked officers who were involved in operations against their members in the past.
But, California's apex court concluded that it is very important that police officers be identifiable because it is essential to prevent the officers from misusing their power. This is the main reason why police officers are required by law to wear an identifying badge.
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