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Appeals Court ruling to keep names of Tallahassee officers involved in shootings confidential prompting mixed reactions

Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 11:03 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Tuesday’s ruling sides with the Florida Police Benevolent Association over the City of Tallahassee in the fight over whether to release officers’ names in two deadly shootings in 2020.

The PBA wanted to keep those names private, but the City, and later, several news organizations, and the First Amendment Foundation, argued that that information falls under Florida’s broad public records law.

The ruling has left one side happy, and the other upset.

A three-judge panel with the First District Court of Appeals drew a line in the sand Tuesday. The panel ruled that law enforcement officers who fear for their lives on duty and protect themselves in self defense are victims, and therefore deserve protections granted by Florida’s Marsy’s Law.

The Big Bend PBA’s Richard Murphy says it’s a needed win for officers.

“We’re humans, we’re part of the community just like everyone else, and we deserve the same protections,” Murphy said.

The 13-page ruling strikes down a trial courts 2020 conclusion. The court argued that officers can still be held accountable without public identification through internal investigations and grand juries.

“[This] does not help the relationship between law enforcement and community,” said President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People - Tallahassee branch, Mutaqee Akbar.

An attorney himself, Akbar respects the ruling, but argues names are needed for full transparency. “I don’t think it’s fair to the community to rely on the grand jury or prosecutor to make the right decision,” said Akbar.

The First Amendment Foundation is also objecting to the ruling. In a statement, the group said, “This ruling can only undermine the public’s belief that law enforcement will eve be held accountable for serious misconduct. Transparency is everything.”

The City of Tallahassee’s Attorney, Cassandra Jackson, also issued a statement Tuesday as well.

“As always, the City of Tallahassee respects the deliberations and decision of the First District Court of Appeal. The Court has determined that police officers, when acting within the scope of their public duties, are afforded the protections of Marsy’s law as crime victims. The City will carefully review the Court’s decision in evaluating whether to appeal,” Jackson wrote.

Akbar told WCTV that he expects this to get to the Florida Supreme Court, especially if a separate district court takes up a similar case, meaning that this isn’t likely the final chapter here.

You can read the court documents at this link or below.

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