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Florida Supreme Court to Decide Whether Marsy’s Law Protects Police

December 22nd, 2021 by Jake Stofan
The Florida Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether law enforcement officers involved in fatal shootings can keep their identities shielded from the public.
The question at issue is whether the constitutional protections for victims of crime extend to on-duty officers.

Florida voters approved Marsy’s Law and established a crime victims’ bill of rights in the state constitution in 2018, but following two fatal police shootings in 2020, Marsy’s Law was used to shield the identities of the officers involved.
“Marsy’s Law allows for somebody who has been victimized, beginning at the time of his or her victimization, to prevent the disclosure of information that could lead to their identity being revealed or their being subject to other forms of harassment,” said Attorney Luke Newman.
Newman is representing the Police Benevolent Association, which sued the city of Tallahassee after it said it would release the names of the officers.
He argues the officers were victims of crime.
“They were both victims of aggravated assault, one with a deadly weapon and one with a firearm,” said Newman.
But the First Amendment Foundation, which has intervened in the case, argues shielding the identities of officers involved in shootings would be detrimental to police accountability.
“They’ve taken on this job to protect and serve and that means when something goes wrong, there needs to be transparency,” said FAF Executive Director Pam Marsh.
The attorney representing the PBA said the case can be whittled down to a basic question: Is an on-duty officer a person?
“My clients are people as well and so that’s who’s covered by the language of the Florida Constitution and they’re asserting their right to be covered by that plain language,” said Newman.
Initially a trial court ruled in favor of the city and ordered the names of the officers be released. 
In April, an appellate court reversed that decision and that ruling has since been used to justify shielding the names of officers involved in fatal shootings in multiple cases throughout the state.
The final ruling by the Florida Supreme Court will set the precedent on how future officer involved shootings are handled throughout the entire state.

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