LA County Sheriff's Dept. To Release the Names of Officers Who Shoot Civilians Within 30 Days, Per a New Policy

Brittany M. Hughes | May 20, 2021
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The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department now says it will publish the names of deputies who shoot civilians within 30 days of the incident, potentially painting a massive public target on the backs of cops accused of wrongly killing a person before all the facts of the case are even known.

The change marks an about-face from the department’s previous policy, which stated that the name of an officer involved in a shooting could be withheld from the public and even the family of the deceased until it could wrap up an internal investigation into the incident, a sometimes years-long ordeal. That policy, LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva explained in a press conference this week, has helped officers from being targeted for retribution while it was being determined whether they’d even done anything wrong.

But now, facing pressure from activists and politicians who’ve demanded vengeance at the expense of due process, the department says they’ve amended their policy to state the officer’s name will be released within a month after the shooting. While still highly concerning for advocates of actual justice, this new policy isn’t nearly as extreme as the one LA City Council members wanted to create, which demanded police release the names of any officer who shoots a civilian within 48 hours. 

Related: 'YOU'RE NEXT': LeBron James Deletes Tweet Calling Out Columbus Police Officer Involved in Shooting

Villanueva says 30 days should be enough time for an internal investigation to determine whether there’s a credible threat to the officer before his or her name is made public, pointing out that officers have been targeted in the past by criminals and gangs following the release of their names. If it’s determined that releasing an officer’s name could put their lives in danger, their name won’t be released, Villanueva said, adding that, “If somebody wants to complain about it, well, you should complain to the people that are making the threats against the deputies.”

“The idea is we want to be as transparent as we can, but we can’t jeopardize ongoing investigations and we can’t create a threat to someone,” he added. “We have to keep that in mind. So we’re going to balance the two things and the public’s right and need to know.”

Of course, the effectiveness of such a policy depends on the accuracy of the persons who’re determining whether a credible threat exists. And while it's understandable for the family of the dead - and, in some cases, the general public - to know the identity of the shooting officer, recent anti-cop movements and a rash of public threats against law enforcement don't support policies that demand the names of such officers be hastily released.

The ACLU, on the other hand, says the department shouldn’t be allowed to determine within itself whether to release the names at all, saying the new policy will almost certainly be abused.

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