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Marsy’s Law Invoked to Shield Law Officer Identities

Last year, a Dollar Tree employee in Masaryktown, Fl., called 911 after a homeless man stole $70 of beer, wine, candy and cookies. A sheriff’s deputy took the man to the hospital. With his left wrist handcuffed to the bed, he started swinging his right arm wildly. To get the suspect “under control,” the deputy pepper-sprayed him. In a use-of-force report, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office blacked out the deputy’s name, report USA Today and ProPublica. Under Marsy’s Law, passed to protect crime victims, officials said the deputy was entitled to privacy because he was a victim of battery by the suspect.

Introduced in memory of a woman murdered by her ex-boyfriend, Marsy’s Law was created to offer crime victims a slate of rights, including protecting them and their families from harassment by their attackers. As police face criticism for brutality and systemic racism, law enforcement agencies in Florida are using Marsy’s Law to shield officers after they use force. Agencies used it to hide the names of officers who sent a 15-year-old boy to the hospital, officers who fired bullets into moving cars and officers who released their K9 dogs on drunk and mentally ill people. Marsy’s Law passed in California in 2008 and, through a well-funded campaign by the woman’s brother, is now the law in 11 other states. It happened each time by ballot initiative, allowing voters to adopt all of its implications with a single yes. Now, it is on the ballot in Kentucky, a state reeling from the botched raid that killed Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black Louisville medical worker. Had it been in place this March, the public may not have learned identities of the three white officers who opened fire.