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ORLANDO, Fla. – The largest union representing Florida’s law enforcement officers is vowing to get the state’s laws changed after the Florida Supreme Court ruled this week that a 2018 constitutional amendment expanding crime victims’ rights does not guarantee protection of the victim’s name.
The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit over whether the identities of law enforcement officers who shoot a suspect in the line of duty for self-defense can be protected under the amendment, known as Marsy’s Law.
The Florida Police Benevolent Association sued the city of Tallahassee after the city released the names of police officers in two cases. Under the provisions of Marsy’s Law, information on a crime victim can be exempted from public record to protect the person from harassment or threats.
While the Florida Supreme Court did not weigh in specifically on whether law enforcement officers could be protected under Marsy’s Law, but it did rule that since Marsy’s Law does not specifically include identities based on the “plain, literal meaning” of the amendment.
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“Information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family, or which could disclose confidential or privileged information of the victim, do not encompass the victim’s identity,” wrote Justice John Couriel in the opinion.
However, Couriel also said that this did not mean the state legislature could not make laws that exempted names of crime victims from public records. In the case of some crimes, those identities are already shielded from public release.
In a statement released Wednesday, the president of the FPBA, John Kazanjian, said the group respects the court’s decision, but they don’t agree.
Kazanjian vowed to mobilize its lobbyists to campaign to pass laws to include the identities of all crime victims, including law enforcement officers.
“The PBA firmly believes that the sole intent of Marsy’s Law was in fact to protect the identities of crime victims, including law enforcement officers, who do not cease from being crime victims just because they wear a badge,” Kazanjian wrote.
The issue has been a contentious one as media groups covering use-of-force cases say names of law enforcement officers should be released in the interest of transparency and accountability.
Not all law enforcement officers agree with the FPBA.
In 2022, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood filed a friend of the court brief in support of the city of Tallahassee.
“This disclosure of the deputies’ names not only promotes transparency and accountability but helps to rebuild the eroding public trust in law enforcement. VSO desires to continue disclosing the names of deputies who are involved in the use of deadly force while in the execution of their official duties in order to continue promoting transparency and accountability,” Chitwood wrote.
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