Police officials are increasingly using Marsy’s Law that was initially meant to protect crime victims. The officials are using this to hide their identity. Whenever officials have used force during public encounters, the report submitted by the security agencies is supposed to have all the details about the officer involved in the incident. But the department is now using Marsy’s Law to protect the identity of the officers involved in such encounters.
Police Using Marsy’s Law To Hide Identities
In recent months, there is a lot of public anger about the way cops are dealing with common citizens, especially black people. Given this situation, the department does not want to reveal the names of officers involved in such encounters as this can put them and their families at risk.
Marsy’s Law was introduced in memory of a young lady who was killed by her ex-boyfriend. It offered a bunch of rights for the victims and protected their identities from being made public. Their families also got such security and it was intended to protect them from harassment by the attackers after a case was filed in this regard.
But now, cops who are involved in using force during public encounters are taking advantage of this Law to conceal their identities. In recent months, officers were involved in several incidents where they used force without any need and even in such cases, the identity of the officers were not revealed.
Marsy’s Law was initially passed in California in 2008 and is valid in 11 other states. Currently, officers are widely using it as they want to claim victim status after getting involved in the use of force cases. They are of the opinion that the suspect was the aggressor, and they had to use force as a self-protection measure.
Nearly half of Florida’s 30 largest police agencies have said that they use it to protect the identity of on-duty officers. Local newsrooms have been denied the names of such officers involved in the use of force cases under the Marsy’s Law.
However, court records still provide all the details of the officers whenever criminal charges are filed against defendants. But there are no charges to file when the suspect is dead in this situation. In recent months, at least seven cases that involved officers killing civilians took the same turn. The names were withheld in all these cases.
Recently, the police union filed a lawsuit defending such moves by the department as there is growing anger over police violence after the Black Lives Matter movement. On the other hand, several activists believe that knowing the identity of officers involved in killing civilians is vital information as this way, they can check the past behavior of the officers.
The identity of the officer who was involved in the killing of George Floyd was revealed by the Minneapolis Police Department. The officer Derek Chauvin had an extensive history of using excessive force. Had his identity been protected, the public would not have known the full picture, and this would have taken the movement in another direction.
Some people, even in the police department, believe that there should be a limit as to when Marsy’s Law can be invoked by officers as there is a huge chance of some officers misusing this provision.
Marsy’s Law was named after Marsalee Ann Nicholas, a 21-year-old student at the University of California who was shot to death by her ex-boyfriend Kerry Michael Conley. Even though the accused was arrested, he came out on bail and allegedly attacked Nicholas’ mother when the family was heading home after the funeral.
Parents of Nicholas then became prominent advocates for victim’s rights. The family was also instrumental in establishing a non-profit support organization for similar victims. This ran for decades, and the family headed a campaign to pass a bill of rights for crime victims in California. Former Gov. Pete Wilson along with several legal scholars and law enforcement officials were recruited by the organization to draft a constitutional amendment bearing the name of Marsalee Ann Nicholas.
Later, the brother of the victim also launched a national organization, Marsy’s Law for all and spent nearly $100 million to get the amendment passed in other states. As of now, 11 states including Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, North Dakota, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, South Dakota and Pennsylvania, have implemented this Law.
The Law is slightly tweaked in different states, and in California, the information of the victim is not disclosed to the defendant. On the other hand, in North Dakota, the confidential information is not leaked to anyone. However, North Dakota officials clarified that the information was not revealed only when the victims were children or victims of sex crimes.
In Florida, the victim’s rights amendment was passed in 2019, and the police agencies had clear instructions for officers that they cannot invoke Marsy’s Law during the course of their official duty. But the union sued them in state court and argued that even police officers had a right to confidentiality. In the last few months. The police associations have sued the city of Tallahassee to block releasing the names of officers involved in public encounters.
Experts analyze that the fatal shooting incidents are only a fraction of the total incidents where Marsy’s Law is used by the police officers. In many cases, when the officers are dealing with juveniles or with intoxicated people or those who have mental health issues, the names are not disclosed, and this conceals vital information about the case.
In a recent case, a daycare centre was booked for abuse of children when a worker was caught on tape dragging and pushing children. However, the name of the daycare centre was not revealed as the victims opted for Marsy’s Law and if the name of the facility was made public, it could have revealed the identity of the children to the public.
There is a lot of confusion about using Marsy’s Law, and even police departments in the same county have used this in different ways. Until a nationwide regulation is passed in this regard, the ambiguity will remain, and more cases will be filed against using such laws.