- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - A bill shielding the names of police officers involved in shootings secret for 60 days after the incident is on the way to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk after the Arizona Senate approved its final language Monday.

Senate Bill 1445 by Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, was prompted by police shootings in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York that brought scrutiny to the officers involved. Smith and other police supporters said it was designed to protect officers from public attacks while the case is investigated.

But several Democrats spoke out against the bill during Monday’s vote, saying it would only add to concerns about unequal police treatment in minority neighborhoods.

“By adding this language we are adding a cloud of suspicion to the police departments that I do not believe they want,” said Sen. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe. “I believe the police departments will handle every incident appropriately and with swiftness. But that’s not to say that someone cannot err in their job. And we need to have that ability to investigate, to shed light on that most heinous of actions, which is taking of life in pure government force.”

Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said the measure was needed to protect officers who names and addresses spread like wildfire in the Internet age.

“The simple fact remains that we live in a world where misinformation can put everybody in jeopardy, especially police officers,” Kavanagh said. “And until we get those facts straight, we need to shield those cops and their families from being assassinated by lunatics or political zealots.

“And this bill does that. This bill very simply conceals that name until the facts can come out, so that we don’t have a dead cop, a dead cop’s spouse, or a dead cops’ child,” Kavanagh said.

The Senate passed the legislation on a 20-8 vote Tuesday, with five Democrats joining all but one Republican in voting for the proposal.

The House cut the initial waiting time from 90 days when it approved the bill on a bipartisan 44-13 vote last week.

The bill requires police departments to get an officer’s permission to release the name sooner unless they are arrested.

Currently, Arizona public records laws require the release of the officer’s name as soon as possible after an incident, unless the agency cites specific reasons for a temporary delay. In practice, agencies typically release the name within several days of the incident.

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