A Florida appellate court has ruled that police officers involved in violent confrontations who act in self-defense, even with deadly force, are also considered victims of a crime and are therefore entitled to the same privacy protections.
Judge Lori Rowe of the 1st District Court of Appeal acted to reverse a prior ruling that did not grant the officers involved in a deadly shooting with the privacy protection of ordinary victims of a crime.
She concluded in her 13-page decision, “We reverse the trial court’s order directing the City to disclose public records that would reveal the identities of the two officers. And we reverse the trial court’s judgment declaring that the protections afforded crime victims under article I, section 16 are not available to law enforcement officers.”
The decision grants officers the same rights to privacy as ordinary citizens who are victims of a crime.
“That the officer acts in self-defense to that threat does not defeat the officers’ status as a crime victim, and thus, as a crime victim, such an officer has the right to keep confidential ‘information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family, or which could disclose confidential or privileged information on the victim,” Rowe said in her decision.
The ruling is a victory for the
, which advocated for two Tallahassee officers after a Leon County judge ruled that victim privacy protections, known as Marsy’s Law, did not apply to officers acting in their “official capacities.”
Danny Alvarez, the spokesperson for the Tampa Police Benevolent Association, said, “Just because someone wears a badge doesn’t mean they can’t be a victim.”
Alvarez assured that the ruling wouldn’t prevent future investigations or inquiries into police shootings.
“Grand juries can still be called if there’s any suspicion of wrongdoing as well as internal affairs investigations,” Alvarez said.
On the other side, Tampa attorney Mark Caramanica, who represented news organizations challenging the Tallahassee Police Department’s refusal to release officer’s names, called the court ruling a “setback for police accountability.”
NBC legal analyst David Cevallos echoed Alvarez’s statements, remarking that Marsy’s Law is not a complete bar to finding officer’s names.
“This ruling does not mean that, for example, a state attorney can’t look at the case,” Cevallos said. “It does not prevent a grand jury from looking into the incident. … It allows for a lot of internal affairs investigations.” He added that Florida has very “liberal” public records laws.
The ruling comes while the nation is focused on the Derek Chauvin trial.