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Pictures of officers could become secret

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Feb. 8, 2010 at 6:13 pm | 8 Comments »
February 8, 2010 6:15 pm

The House Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously this evening that photographs in the personnel files of police, court and corrections employees should not be public records.

Nor would birth dates from the files be publicly available if HB 1317 passes.

It’s something police asked for in the wake of the death of four Lakewood officers. House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler said it reflects “a concern for the safety of not just the criminal justice employees but their families as well.”

Jamie Daniels of the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs told legislators Saturday that after the Lakewood slayings: “Lakewood was barraged with requests for children’s Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses of the officers.”

The thing is, all of that information is already protected under the law. But Daniels’ point, she said today, was that the department had to spend time fighting those media requests.

Public employees also wanted their birth dates redacted from a host of other public records, like court files and pension information, but newspapers said that would make it harder for the press to do investigations into where tax money goes and what lies in officials’ pasts.

Rowland Thompson of Allied Daily Newspapers said removing pictures from the public record could make it harder for the media to get images from the cameras that record police traffic stops or violent incidents inside jails or prisons.

“It seems odd to us,” he said, “that you don’t want to disclose something that is posted in the lobby of any police department and you generally make public employees wear them around their neck for everyone to see.”

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