Overland Park, Ks., police chief Frank Donchez, Jr. refuses to name the police officer who shot and killed a suicidal 17-year-old high school junior on Jan. 20, citing officer safety and what he has called “a climate of anti-law enforcement sentiment in this country.” Elsewhere, most officers who shoot civilians are identified.
Overland Park, Ks., police chief Frank Donchez, Jr. refuses to name the police officer who shot and killed a suicidal 17-year-old high school junior on Jan. 20, citing officer safety and what he has called “a climate of anti-law enforcement sentiment in this country,”the Kansas City Star reports. Kansas law allows police agencies to decide for themselves whether to release the names of officers involved in shootings, with the result that most of the biggest departments in the state don’t under any circumstances. In Missouri, the names almost always become available when the investigation is finished, because of the state’s public records law. Common practice in cities across the nation, from North Little Rock, Ar., to San Jose, Ca., is to release the name of a police officer within days of a fatal shooting, even in a controversial case drawing threats against police.
Nationally, the question of how long police should wait before releasing an officer’s name has grown more contentious as police shootings have come under increased scrutiny. National police leaders generally assume the officer’s name will be made public eventually. Law enforcement officials who oppose releasing the names say it could interfere with an investigation or put officers in danger from retaliation. Open government advocates and police critics say the officers should be identified in the name of accountability and transparency. Some say not naming the officer creates a double standard: any other citizen who shoots someone will have their name made public immediately. And making the officers’ names public allows observers to know if an officer has been involved in shootings before or has shown a pattern of excessive force.