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Proposed amendments to the state's Government Records Access and Management Act would make information on police misconduct off limits to the public.
SB260, sponsored by Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, would among other things, classify information about charges or disciplinary action taken against police officers as private, unless officers grant written consent to make the data public. The bill was introduced in the Senate Rules Committee meeting on Friday and is already raising eyebrows among those who support liberal open records laws.
Such limitations on police disciplinary records may mean journalists won't have access to information on police punished for using deadly force, involved in sexual misconduct or other questionable behavior, said Joel Campbell, a Brigham Young University professor and member of the Freedom of Information Committee for the national Society of Professional Journalists.
"Police are granted a lot of power in our society. It seems appropriate that the public has a right to know when police officers run afoul of department policy or the law," Campbell said.
Buttars couldn't be reached late Friday for comment on what prompted him to bring the amendment regarding police discipline records forward.
A spokesman for the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Academy said he didn't believe his agency lobbied in favor of restrictions in releasing such information. Jeff Nigbur, spokesman for POST, said the agency plans to discuss the bill during a meeting next week.
"Law enforcement is in the public eye. We work for the public. There are probably issues on both sides of for and against [Buttars' proposal]," Nigbur said. - Melinda Rogers