“Vague safety concerns” don’t trump the public’s right to know the names of officers involved in shootings, the Supreme Court of California ruled Thursday. The justices were responding to a case that arose from the Los Angeles Times’ efforts to learn the names of officers in Long Beach, California, who shot Douglas Zerby, a 35-year-old man holding a garden hose nozzle, 12 times.
The Long Beach Police Officers Association argued that releasing the names “would endanger officers and their families because home addresses and telephone numbers can be obtained on the Internet,” Maura Dolan reports in the L.A. Times.
The ruling says that “if it is essential to protect an officer‘s anonymity for safety reasons or for reasons peculiar to the officer’s duties” — if the officer is undercover, perhaps — “then the public interest in disclosure of the officer‘s name may need to give way.” But that didn’t apply in the Zerby case, the court said.
Here’s the ruling: