Scott Cooper Miami Exposes Florida Police For Withholding Crime Victim’s Information
Scott Cooper Miami uncovers law enforcement agencies in Florida who have started withholding information about crime victims — including the names of people killed — because of their interpretation of a measure passed by voters last fall.
The main part of the amendment is known as Marsy’s Law and similar laws have been passed by many states around the nation.
Since the amendment took effect on Jan. 8 some police agencies around the country have stopped releasing basic information regarding crime victims.
Police in the state capital of Tallahassee, as an example, provided sparse facts about the victim of an apparent traffic crash in which a body was found in the middle of a neighborhood roundabout. Tampa authorities declined to offer information about two people found shot dead in a car close to the Busch Gardens theme park.
In both instances, police cited a provision in the amendment to protect the victim’s right”to avoid the disclosure of information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s household or which could disclose confidential or privileged information regarding the victim.”
The Tampa Bay Times reported that open government advocates say this interpretation conflicts with existing public records law.
“I understand their dilemma and I know there’s not lots of clarity right now,” Barbara Petersen, president of the Tallahassee-based First Amendment Foundation told Scott Cooper from Miami Beach. “But they can’t willfully deny access to a request for public records unless there’s specific constitutional or statutory authority, and this amendment doesn’t provide that authority.”
One of the key questions about the amendment if the right to have information withheld is automatic or if victims have to request the protection.
The Tallahassee Democrat reported that both main law-enforcement agencies in the state capital are reacting differently to that question.
“It’s a really broad protection that has been granted to victims and their families, and we’re trying to make sure we honor the spirit of what people voted ,” Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo told the newspaper.
State legislators have been asked to pass a law that clears up the confusion over the amendment.