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Arizona Governor Vetoes Bill That Would Have Shielded Officers In Fatal Shootings

Governor Doug Ducey has vetoed a bill requiring the names of police officers to be kept secret from the public for 60 days.

by Arijeta Lajka
Mar 31 2015, 6:15pm

Photo by Ross D. Franklin/AP

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In what some consider a blow to Arizona police forces, Governor Doug Ducey vetoed a controversial piece of legislation that would have prohibited law enforcement agencies from releasing the names of officers involved in fatal shootings for 60 days.

In an announcement on Monday, Ducey emphasized that although he is concerned with protecting police officers and their families, he does not feel that the Senate Bill would have been beneficial.

"I am more than sympathetic to the aim of Senate Bill 1445, and I respect the supports of this legislation for seeking to address these issues," he said in a letter explaining the veto.

"Their concern, and mine, is that setting an arbitrary 60-day benchmark for release of names would limit their ability to best manage these often tenuous situations and result in unintended consequences," Ducey added.

Legislators who supported the bill, which was proposed by State Senator Steve Smith, felt that concealing the officers' identities would have created a cool-off period, where officers involved in fatal shootings could not be harassed or threatened.

Joe Clure, president of the Arizona Police Association, told Reuters that he opposes the governor's decision, adding that Ducey was influenced by politics.

"We certainly have a governor who made it clear that the safety of police officers and their families are not his number one priority," he said.

The bill originally proposed for a 90-day period after a fatal shooting, but that potential period was reduced to 60 days. While an officer's record and disciplinary hearing could be made available during the 60 days, all of the officer's personal information would not be disclosed.

Those who voted against the bill argued that it would limit transparency between law enforcement officials and the public.

"We as a community, we should have the right, and we have the obligation, to stand up and be vocal and be angry about these situations where a life is taken and where that life didn't necessarily have to be taken. We have a right to demand answers, to demand accountability," State Senator Martin Quezada argued on March 24 when he voted against the bill.

"[The bill] takes away our ability to establish trust between law enforcement and our communities," Quezada added.

The American Civil Liberties Union in Arizona said in a press release on Monday that the group is grateful that Ducey vetoed the bill and that "his leadership will help build trust and assure the greatest possible safety and security for both our law enforcement officers and our citizens."

Alessandra Soler, executive director of ACLU Arizona, told VICE News today that the bill would have moved Arizona in the "completely wrong direction," especially after widespread protests for the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the fatal chokehold of Eric Garner in New York. She said that the bill is also unnecessary, since Arizona already protects the names of officers if they are at risk.

"It promotes greater mistrust between the community and police by not being fully transparent when it comes to issues of police brutality," she said. "The bill was completely out of line with nationwide best practices that really encourage the release of police officer names as soon as possible, or within 48 hours at the very latest."