National Freedom of Information Coalition
Protecting Your Right to Open Government

CJR: Here’s the backstory to a bill allowing Virginia police to keep officers’ names secret

If you follow transparency and open-records news, you might have heard about what’s going on in Virginia, where the state Senate last week approved a bill to make the names and training files of law-enforcement officials “excluded from mandatory disclosure” under the state Freedom of Information Act.

In other words: If the bill becomes law in its current form, when a reporter or private citizen asks a local police department for a list of officers on staff, the department could choose to simply reject it. It’s a remarkable piece of legislation, and journalists in the state have been doing a good job noting its unprecedented nature and pointing out how the law’s broad language raises some fairly absurd questions about what it might mean in practice.

What you might not know is that the journalist whose digging seems to have prompted this proposal pursued a very similar line of reporting not too many years ago. Continue…