Nearly every state in the United States is calling out to the police departments to release their records and create accountability for its officers. But Virginia is trying to achieve the exact opposite.
A Virginia state bill, titled SB552, proposes to create a “secret police” force that will enable officers to act with impunity without fear of repercussions.
The Rutherford Institute dispatched a letter Wednesday to James LeMunyon, chairman of the House of Delegates’ General Laws subcommittee, with a proposal to classify the names of police officers as “personnel records,” making them exempt from disclosure.
The motion comes on the heels of a series of rash shootings by police officers across the country and the backlash they instigated from the public over law enforcement answerability.
Kevin Carroll, president of the Virginia Fraternal Order of Police union, said, “It is about wanting to keep our officers safe. With the current trend across the country, law enforcement officers have been attacked and even assassinated because of issues being driven in the media. ... With technology now, if you have a name, you could find out where they live. It puts them at risk.”
The explanation falls flat as hardly anyone who has ever shot at or attacked a police officer uses public records.
A prominent civil rights group, the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, is protesting the bill, claiming keeping every law enforcement officer’s name confidential is going too far; plus it gives them incentive
Meanwhile, the city of Chicago is still in a legal battle with its police department over trying to destroy evidence of police misconduct. If the department wins, all records older than five years will be destroyed and with them any chances of police accountability.
If the House of Delegates subcommittee decides to keep Senate Bill 552 alive, it could very well mean an increase in police misconduct around the state. The bill can give Virginia officers incentive to press the trigger or inflict their personal vendettas on helpless victims without compunction, promoting an ever-growing culture of corruption in police departments.
So the question now arises, who will watch the watchmen?