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If Arizona politicians have their way, police officers who use extreme force in the line of duty will be guaranteed protection through anonymity. If passed, Arizona Senate Bill 1445 would keep the names of officers in question absent from public records during the early stages of investigations. The names would be unavailable until 60 days have passed. If this bill succeeds in the Arizona Senate and becomes law, it will not only eliminate the transparency expected of public officials, but also brings into question the ethics of law enforcement practices.

The introduction of this bill comes following several incidents of police brutality — including the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson and choking of Eric Garner in New York — making national news. In these cases, the officers were not indicted for excessive force they had used during confrontations with minorities, which led to significant amounts of negative and highly critical backlash, especially from those who had condemned the behavior and practices of police officers or had experienced some semblance of injustice from a member of law enforcement on grounds of their race, ethnicity or gender identity.

This bill acknowledges that police culture and methods are immoral and unethical. To cover up a police officer’s name until an investigation is underway denies the public information that should be readily available when dealing with public safety. Guaranteeing anonymity removes the responsibility of rational thinking during an altercation the officer and affords them the opportunity to develop an alibi for their behaviors before a trial is underway or incriminating parts of a story are uncovered.

From a journalistic standpoint, the inability to provide the name of an officer under investigation prevents an unbiased and fully informed article from being published. The purpose of the media is to provide truth and shed light on particularly contested parts of a story. With one of the most significant parts of a story on an officer missing — his name — it would be impossible to provide information necessary for the public to collect information and form a rounded opinion.

Maricopa County’s history of policing and imprisonment has not been admirable. Lead by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the practices, especially those at his infamous "Tent City," have garnered national attention for their inhumane treatment of non-violent prisoners and criminals doomed to a future in Arizona's prison system. This reputation goes hand-in-hand with SB 1070, the immigration bill that gained Arizona recognition for its racist practices toward immigrants and minorities.

If the practices of law enforcement are honorable, they should not be afraid that an officer's name would appear in the media following a police shooting. This bill places further distrust in a system that the public has already become skeptical of. If it is passed, SB 1445 will ensure that the public will no longer look to officers as someone to call to in times of need, but rather as oppressive forces that can get away with murder and be protected by the government.

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