Bills in the Florida Legislature would shield the names of police officers who say they are crime victims

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Tampa Police Chief logo. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News (8 July 2016).

©2024 The News Service of Florida

After the Florida Supreme Court ruled in November that a 2018 constitutional amendment does not shield the identities of crime victims, a House Republican on Tuesday filed proposals that would create a public-records exemption — including for police officers who say they are crime victims.

Rep. Chuck Brannan, R-Macclenny, filed the bills (HB 1605 and HB 1607) on the first day of the 2024 legislative session. The issue stems from a dispute over the identities of two Tallahassee police officers involved in separate use-of-force incidents in which they were threatened.

The officers invoked the 2018 constitutional amendment, known as “Marsy’s Law,” to prevent their names from being released.

Marsy’s Law was designed to enshrine a series of victims’ rights in the state Constitution.

The Florida Police Benevolent Association, a union representing the Tallahassee officers, argued that they were victims and their identities were shielded by the amendment.

But the Supreme Court on Nov. 30 ruled that Marsy’s Law did not ensure that victims’ identities would be prevented from disclosure.

“We conclude that Marsy’s Law does not guarantee to a victim the categorical right to withhold his or her name from disclosure,” the Supreme Court opinion said.

One of Brannan’s bills, HB 1605, would spell out a series of victims’ rights and provide a definition of victims.

That definition includes “law enforcement officers, correctional officers, or correctional probation officers who use deadly force in the course and scope of their employment or official duties.”

The other bill, HB 1607, would create the public records exemption, which would apply unless victims choose to release the identity information.

“The Legislature finds that it is a public necessity that any information or records that could be used to locate or harass a crime victim or the victim’s family be made exempt from (public records laws),” the bill says. “The Legislature finds that the release of any such information or records that could be used to locate or harass a crime victim or the victim’s family could subject such victims or their families to further trauma”

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