Editor's Note

The FOI Advocate is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed and a link will be provided whenever possible. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited. We will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Secret Police Will See You Now...

Rep. Bill Hinkle says a public-records bill he's sponsoring would help protect police officers and their families from retribution for doing their jobs.

But opponents say the proposal — the latest attempt to limit what is considered public information — is too broad, would cost too much to implement and isn't needed.

House Bill 2490 would exempt from disclosure personal information about a commissioned police officer or his or her family members. That would include home addresses, phone numbers, property and tax records and dates of birth.

State law already prohibits government agencies from releasing home addresses and phone numbers of employees — including police officers. But names, birth dates, salaries and job titles are generally available.

Under the bill, citizens could request the full name, year of birth and photograph of individual officers. The officers or their immediate supervisors would first be notified of the request and would be provided the name and city or county of the person requesting the information.

"We have a group of people in this country that protects the homes in our communities, and we're exposing them to a liability that is unfair," said Hinkle, R-Cle Elum.

The bill is opposed by the Coalition for Open Government and media organizations.

"My goal is to keep it from even getting a hearing," said Toby Nixon, president of the Coalition for Open Government, "because once it gets out in the wild, the law-enforcement community can put a lot of political pressure on the Legislature."

Rowland Thompson, a lobbyist for Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington, said the bill would make it much harder for citizens to monitor police and learn about officers accused of wrongdoing.

"These are people who we give a lot of responsibility and trust to, and we allow them to move through the population armed with the ability to incarcerate people," Thompson said. "I mean, we trust them, but it isn't a blind trust."

More here.

No comments: