PHOENIX — As the end-of-day deadline approached, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed a bill which would have kept the identities of police officers involved in an on-duty shooting private for 60 days.
Senate Bill 1445 was proposed with the idea of protecting police officers who were involved in a shooting from the media and public harm.
The bill was met with opposition from both sides, including various police chiefs who argued the proposal would only hamper their ability to manage complex police-community relations.
Ducey announced his decision through a letter to Senate President Andy Biggs.
“I don’t believe this bill in its current form best achieves the objectives we share, and I worry it could result in unforeseen problems,” Ducey said. “Arizona’s Public Records Act already gives police departments the authority to withhold the names of police officers who are involved in shootings — longer than 60 days, if necessary.”
Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor wrote to Ducey last week in his role as president of the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police urging the veto.
“Enacting legislation that would hamper that trust by not allowing officers’ names to be released is not in my opinion the best way to improve or repair that level of trust,” Villasenor said.
Republican lawmakers who backed the proposal said it was designed to protect officers.
“The simple fact remains that we live in a world where misinformation can put everybody in jeopardy, especially police officers,” state Sen. John Kavanagh said last week. “And until we get those facts straight, we need to shield those cops and their families from being assassinated by lunatics or political zealots.”
State legislatures across the nation have been looking at police transparency laws since the Aug. 8 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, whose name was released a week after the incident. Several states are considering requiring police to wear body cameras or mandating that shooting investigations be done by outside agencies.
Arizona public records laws currently require the release of an officer’s name as soon as possible, unless the agency cites specific reasons for a temporary delay. In practice, agencies typically have released the name within several days but can hold off indefinitely if the officer’s safety is in jeopardy.
“There are many examples of our police departments exercising this authority in a manner that protects the officer’s identity while ultimately providing disclosure after the situation has cooled,” Ducey said in his veto letter.
The police chiefs and lawyers for The Arizona Republic also pointed to provisions that might shield all police disciplinary records.
Ducey said those provisions “seem to stretch outside the scope of protecting officers and their families from unjustified retaliation by creating new and expansive exceptions to the Public Records Act.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.