Virginia Senate Votes To Exempt Police Officers' Information From FOIA Responses

from the referred-to-by-short-name-'Cosgrove-Coverup' dept

Way to go, Virginia. In a time when police accountability is (finally!) a mainstream media topic, the Virginia state legislature is having none of it. Prompted by a recent court decision granting The Virginian-Pilot access to police employment records, the state Senate has passed a bill that basically neutralizes the brief win for transparency advocates. (via Radley Balko)

The Virginia Senate voted 25-15 on Monday to keep the names of all police officers and deputy sheriffs a secret.

SB552 by Sen. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, applies to any local or state officer, including officers from agencies such as the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the Virginia Marine Police.
The bill's wording puts law enforcement officers in the same accountability bracket as state employees making less than $10,000 a year.
The provisions of this subsection, however, shall not require public access to records of the (a) official salaries or rates of pay of public employees whose annual rate of pay is $10,000 or less or (b) the names, positions, job classifications, or other personal identifying information concerning (1) employees of state or local police departments or sheriff's offices who are responsible for the prevention and detection of crime and the enforcement of the penal, traffic, or highway laws of the Commonwealth; (2) special agents of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control; (3) officers of the Virginia Marine Police; (4) conservation police officers who are full-time sworn members of the enforcement division of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries; (5) investigators who are full-time sworn members of the security division of the Virginia Lottery; (6) conservation officers of the Department of Conservation and Recreation commissioned pursuant to § 10.1-115; (7) full-time sworn members of the enforcement division of the Department of Motor Vehicles appointed pursuant to § 46.2-217; or (8) animal protection police officers employed under § 15.2-632.
The bill now goes to the House, where it will hopefully be greeted with disbelief and derision. Or not. The bill's creator, John Cosgrove, is conjuring up the ghastly spectre of the nonexistent "War on Cops" to justify cutting the public out of the loop.
Cosgrove said Monday that his bill, which exempts law enforcement officers from Freedom of Information Act requirements, should be passed to protect officers and their families from being targeted for violence.

“Unfortunately, our culture has changed,” he said. “Many times, police officers are considered fair game.”
A local law enforcement official agrees:
John Jones, executive director of the sheriffs' group, said he believes that the concerns about the bill are unfounded.

"With social media and all the databases, once you get the name and a little bit more information ... you can pretty much get a picture of who they are," Jones said. "And with everything going on with law enforcement... it's an officer safety issue."
"Everything" apparently being the freefall in police firearm-related deaths over the past 40 years.

If Cosgrove's bill manages to land on the governor's desk and net a signature, he will likely be hailed as a hero by his Fraternal Order of Police brethren. His constituents, however, will receive nothing more than additional widening of the gap between them and those who are supposed to serve them.

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Filed Under: accountability, foia, police, privacy, virginia


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Feb 2016 @ 3:50pm

    Secret police

    "keep the names of all police officers and deputy sheriffs a secret. "

    So now we truly do have secret police force with unlimited authority.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Feb 2016 @ 4:27pm

    Police State USA

    Haven't you Americans realised it yet: you are living in a police state. Police persons are the only true US citizens. The rest of you are just serfs, with as few rights as the state can get away with granting you.

    Politically well-connected persons enjoy police status as long as it suits the interests of the government. Otherwise, serfdom for them. Ask the fallen Hollywood stars for details.

    Your fathers and grandfathers fought two world wars to save you from being in a police state, lest we forget. Adolf would be proud.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2016 @ 11:02am

      Re: Police State USA

      It is realized. What can you do living in a police state?


      Get policed

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2016 @ 2:45pm

        Re: Re: Police State USA

        Or fight back. If you are going to be labeled a criminal regardless of what you do, why not take a few dirty cops down with you

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Whatever (profile), 29 Feb 2016 @ 4:47pm

    I understand that you don't agree, but the overly enthusiastic protesting of some leads to this sort of problem.

    What a police officer does at work is WORK. It's his or her job. Some protesters are quick to try to dox officers and as such, they don't just harm their jobs, they harm their lives, their family's lives, their neighbor's lives, etc. Can you imagine having a group of people showing up in front of your house to threaten your life, threaten to burn down your home, threaten to kill your family because of something you wrote online?

    The intimidation factor here is huge. Might an officer choose not to arrest someone because they say "I will find you online, stalk your family, and kill your pets"? Might an office choose not to get involved in a domestic dispute or deal with a gang member for fear of retribution or a sort of virtual lynching?

    That doesn't mean that police work should be anonymous or untracked. Rather, it's important that we separate the officer from the person. The alternative is that we end up with anarchy, where those who threaten the loudest would win. That sort of intimidation - including the killing of judges, police officers, and their families - has kept many countries from getting out of third world status. Do we really want the US to sink to those levels?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Feb 2016 @ 5:00pm

      Re:

      those who threaten the loudest would win

      You say that like it's not what already happens. Untracked, unrestrained police power is precisely why we are where we are today, with the police using every possible means to intimidate and justify ridiculous uses of their power.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 29 Feb 2016 @ 11:34pm

      Re:

      Nothing that should be public record of those putatively serving the public, being brought to wider attention, is "doxxing". Further, the movie and TV style imagination of cops being attacked all the hell over is just that - a fantasy. The constant abuse of authority by LEOs and their officers, however, is not.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2016 @ 3:41am

      Re:

      "Can you imagine having a group of people showing up in front of your house to threaten your life, threaten to burn down your home, threaten to kill your family because of something you wrote online?"

      umm, you mean like pigs do now to EVERYONE ELSE ? ? ?

      what a tool you are, whatever...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2016 @ 5:02am

      Re:

      They do not want people with pitch forks in their front yard?

      Well then, maybe they shouldn't beat the crap outta people, I doubt that is in their job description. Law enforcement does not include punishment, that is reserved for a court of "law" to determine after conviction. We do not need a bunch of self appointed Judge Dredds running around acting like they are doing everyone a favor.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2016 @ 6:40am

      Re:

      ...It's a bit late for that, guv.

      The US has already sunk to massive lows, because of the terrorists and criminal in the FBI and the CIA. Add in the mass-media complicity and the stunning lack of oversight from both Congress and the Senate, alongisde the public, and the problems are easy to see.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      AJ, 1 Mar 2016 @ 10:10am

      Re:

      I don't get you Whatever, are you Bi-Polar? You resort to name calling and childish behavior on some posts, then this...

      I like what your suggesting, and I found your post very insightful, I just don't know if secrecy in policing wouldn't just make the problem worse.

      UNLESS!! We give all LEO's a stripper stage name. Not only would it protect his/her identity, but how fucking entertaining would the Saturday blotter report in the paper be?

      Hmmmm.. I wonder what name I'd use.......

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2016 @ 10:53am

      Re:

      So essentially, a secret police?

      As long as they take their official name as "gestapo" to go along with their cowardice, I'm fine with it. After all, if they want to play the role, they should take on the proper name.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 1 Mar 2016 @ 1:47pm

      Re:

      Some protesters are quick to try to dox officers and as such, they don't just harm their jobs, they harm their lives, their family's lives, their neighbor's lives, etc. Can you imagine having a group of people showing up in front of your house to threaten your life, threaten to burn down your home, threaten to kill your family because of something you wrote online?

      Is this happening to police officers?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Manabi (profile), 29 Feb 2016 @ 5:08pm

    Amazing how wimpy police are nowadays

    I don't believe they've thought all this through. If they truly are such special snowflakes they need even their names hidden, isn't that just admitting they're a bunch of wimps? We seem to have a police force that's utterly terrified of the public. And that think they're both above the law and special citizens who get extra rights.

    How about if you don't want to be at risk, don't take a job where risk is a daily fact of life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Whatever (profile), 29 Feb 2016 @ 5:32pm

      Re: Amazing how wimpy police are nowadays

      "We seem to have a police force that's utterly terrified of the public."

      They are. They are terrified about revenge killings, about getting their families harmed because they arrested someone, or because of a heated moment. They fear that certain members of the public are going to choose to be judge, jury, and executioner against whatever actions they happen to take.

      The police are not above the law, but there is something wrong when you think it's acceptable to shove them below the law.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Aidian, 29 Feb 2016 @ 6:27pm

        You have the right to know who your employees are

        It's ridiculous to say that we shouldn't know who it is we're employing. That's the most basic kind of accountability. That's the most basic of rights: to know where the money that's being taken from me - under threat of force - is being spent. That is a fundamental interest and any restriction on that requires the strictest of scrutiny.

        Before there can be any restriction on that right there should, legally, be a compelling government interest. For that, you'd have to first show that there's a problem. And right now, there's not.

        The fact is, being a cop is not a dangerous job. The OSHA/BLS statistics show that being a cop is less dangerous than working in 'municipal waste management.' IIRC it's also less dangerous than working as a cabbie or mini-mart clerk. It's an order of magnitude less dangerous than being a timber faller or commercial fisherman.

        About 100 cops die on the job every year recently. About half of them die in traffic accidents. The other 50 are killed, usually by suspects. Across the U.S., governments pay out settlements in more than 50 wrongful killings by police every year. Total killings by police are closer to 1000.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Manabi (profile), 29 Feb 2016 @ 7:34pm

        Re: Re: Amazing how wimpy police are nowadays

        The police are not above the law, but there is something wrong when you think it's acceptable to shove them below the law.
        I, of course, never said that anywhere. Apparently you're so terrified of the public that you're making shit up to feed your fear.

        Thanks for proving my point for me.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Feb 2016 @ 7:45pm

        Re: Re: Amazing how wimpy police are nowadays

        The police can never be 'below the law' as they are the armed force which enforces the law.

        They routinely get away with outrageous behavior up to and including senseless murder. Rule #1 when dealing with cops is that you have no rights, and you are an insignificant insect which they are allowed to squash at any time for any or no reason.

        Hardly surprising that more people are becoming disillusioned with the police and are demanding oversight, accountability and consequences for lawless cop behavior.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Feb 2016 @ 8:12pm

        Re: Re: Amazing how wimpy police are nowadays

        The police are not above the law, but there is something wrong when you think it's acceptable to shove them below the law.

        And how is this below the law? After all, someone can go to a judge's house, or a politician's house and and do all of those things as well. And yet there's no hiding the names of the legislators who create the laws, or the judges who sentence, or the governor who pardons. Why are the police better than them?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Feb 2016 @ 8:41pm

        Re: Re: Amazing how wimpy police are nowadays

        Yes, they are so terrified - their fear forces them to kick the defenseless and downtrodden. It drives them to plant evidence and lie under oath.

        In fact, Lt. John Pike was so fearful of those students sitting on the ground ... he had no other choice ... he had to pepper spray them This selfless action resulted in his deep psychological pain and suffering for which he was given worker's compensation award and his retirement benefits. Poor poor soul, he has suffered so much.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          orbitalinsertion (profile), 29 Feb 2016 @ 11:38pm

          Re: Re: Re: Amazing how wimpy police are nowadays

          Yes. it's like being threatened by people sleeping in a car. They simply had to die. As if you had to throw incendiary devices into a bunker (of guys who are obviously too terrified to come out) you are passing while advancing toward an objective because leaving a detachment or taking prisoners is just too much work.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Feb 2016 @ 9:55pm

        Re: Re: Amazing how wimpy police are nowadays

        Those examples are so rare they are basicly myths. It is very safe to be a cop and the blatent lie that our culture has changed for the worse, as Cosgrove tries to spew, has nothing substantial to back it up. In fact it has been proven again and again that being a cop has only become safer.
        I am not gonna sit here and say that their job is safe, but it is NOT the deathtrap they make it out to be and it is not enough reason to make laws and give special treatment that basicly prevent those with the most power from being held responsible.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2016 @ 10:55am

        Re: Re: Amazing how wimpy police are nowadays

        They are terrified about revenge killings, about getting their families harmed because they arrested someone, or because of a heated moment.

        Well then that should help them relate to the public's perception of them shouldn't it?

        They fear that certain members of the public are going to choose to be judge, jury, and executioner against whatever actions they happen to take.

        How ironic!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2016 @ 5:53am

      Re: Amazing how wimpy police are nowadays

      Why else would we have officers that use velcro strips to cover up their names and badge numbers when beating up and assaulting people. If they were doing nothing wrong they would have no reason to hide their identities.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Binko Barnes (profile), 29 Feb 2016 @ 5:37pm

    Dim-witted legislators can pass misguided bills like this one all they want. But they fall in with the "we want the 10 Commandments in the courthouse" type of laws in that they won't withstand legal challenge.

    Public agencies cannot perform their official functions under a cloak of secrecy. The only exception is for issues of national security. This is one of the foundations of our entire constitutional system of government.

    Any cop that is so scared of being publicly identified should go find another job. Maybe as a taxi driver or a lumberjack or a roofer or a construction laborer or any other of the multitude of professions that have a higher on-job death rate than cops.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Paul Bunyon, 29 Feb 2016 @ 9:08pm

      Re: This right here

      Cop:not even in the top ten most dangerous jobs in the USA. C'mon man...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Aidian, 29 Feb 2016 @ 10:09pm

        Cops aren't in danger

        Being a cop isn't that dangerous of a job. Not according to OSHA statistics. Again, commercial fishermen and timber fallers are the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. (at least last time I looked). When it comes to government work, it's more dangerous to work at the dump.

        If you'd like to put some money on it...I've got 1000 bucks to bet. I could use the money.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Feb 2016 @ 5:54pm

    Apparently someone didn't grasp the concept

    that police officers are PUBLIC servants.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2016 @ 4:11am

    I'm not so sure. Reminds me of the efforts to keep the names and addresses of concealed carry licensees private.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2016 @ 4:53am

    BUT, BUT, BUT...

    According to the gov't just having you name and address and all personal information and your call metadata isn't enough to identify people - especially if their phones are locked.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2016 @ 5:47am

    Have to make being a personal goose stepping thug to the self proclaimed elite desirable, and being held accountable under the FOIA does not do that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    got_runs? (profile), 1 Mar 2016 @ 7:30am

    Police State.. Confirmed!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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