March 31, 2015 / 4:25 AM / 3 years ago

Arizona governor vetoes bill aimed at shielding police names

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Arizona’s governor on Monday vetoed legislation that would have kept secret for 60 days the identities of police officers involved in deadly shootings, a move that was both welcomed and heavily criticized by separate state police union leaders.

Arizona Republican gubernatorial primary candidate Doug Ducey smiles after voting, as he stands alongside his family, in the Paradise Valley section of Phoenix, Arizona August 26, 2014. REUTERS/Samantha Sais

Republican Governor Doug Ducey said the bill passed by state lawmakers last week was well-intentioned but fell short of protecting officers and their families.

Supporters of the bill had sought to shield officers from potential death threats and harassment in the wake of several recent fatal police shootings in Arizona and killings like those in Ferguson, Missouri, that sparked nationwide protests.

“Unfortunately, I don’t believe this bill in its current form best achieves the objectives we share, and I worry it could result in unforeseen problems,” Ducey said in his veto letter.

Ducey, the son of a policeman, said the law would be too limiting for police chiefs, adding that state public records law was sufficient.

The bill, which had been criticized by the Arizona police chiefs’ association, aimed to mandate a 60-day delay in release of the name of an officer who used deadly physical force that resulted in either death or serious physical injury.

The police chiefs’ association said the bill, if passed, would have undermined the authority of local law enforcement officials to decide whether officers’ names should be withheld.

The bill followed two fatal police shootings in Phoenix in which officers’ names were released within a week of the incidents. One officer has since been cleared and the other case remains under review.

Joe Clure, president of the roughly 10,000-member Arizona Police Association, blasted the governor’s decision to veto the bill, alleging that it was influenced by politics. 

“We certainly have a governor who made it clear that the safety of police officers and their families are not his number one priority,” Clure told Reuters.

A Ducey spokesman denied the charge, reiterating that he is willing to seek other remedies.

Civil rights groups also argued that the measure could hamper relations with communities and interferes with the public’s right to know.

“This proposal would have taken Arizona in the wrong direction, by exacerbating distrust between communities and the public safety officers responsible for protecting them, while at the same time eroding the transparency that is critical to our democracy,” American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona executive director Alessandra Soler said in a statement.

Editing by Curtis Skinner and Simon Cameron-Moore

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