Apr 7, 2021 - News
Florida court: Police who shoot citizens can remain anonymous
A police car with its lights on
Photo: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Citing Marsy's Law — Florida's constitutional amendment granting privacy rights to crime victims — the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday that municipalities cannot make public the names of police who shoot citizens if the police officers themselves were crime victims, which is almost always the case in police shootings.

What happened: Two Tallahassee police officers who fatally shot suspects in different incidents argued in a lawsuit that the city shouldn't release any information that would personally identify them as the shooters.

  • The city and the news media argued that the records identifying the cops were public records under the Florida Constitution, and that law enforcement officers acting in their official capacities cannot be victims.
  • The trial court ruled for the city and media, saying the "court cannot interpret Marsy’s Law to shield police officers from public scrutiny of their official actions."

But, but, but: In a blow to Florida's friendly public records law, the appeal court found that Marsy's Law doesn't exclude "law enforcement officers ... from the protections granted crime victims."

  • The court said keeping an officer's identity private wouldn't stop an internal affairs investigation or grand jury proceeding, and wouldn't stop a state attorney from deciding the officer was not a victim and bringing charges.

This story first appeared in the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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