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An officer-involved shooting case from Tallahassee continues to divide law enforcement agencies

Crime scene blurred law enforcement and forensic background
Crime scene blurred law enforcement and forensic background

The Pinellas County Sheriffs' office wants to weigh in on a case that will decide whether officers can use the state’s crime victims law to shield themselves if they’re involved in a shooting while on duty.

The case before the Florida Supreme Court stems from a city of Tallahassee dispute over whether police can claim victim privacy protections if they’re involved in an officer-involved shooting. The issue came up two years ago after officers shot and killed an armed person who had just stabbed another person to death.

The police union argued the officer was a victim of a crime, and therefore, those names should not be released. In a filing before the Florida Supreme Court, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri slammed that defense. He says police are not "victims" when they use force and that “a police officer who shoots and kills another is not a "victim" of that shooting and cannot invoke Marsy's Law to shroud his shooting in secrecy.”

The sheriff says granting such protections to police can hurt public trust and transparency. That position is opposite to the stance other law enforcement agencies have taken on the matter. The case has attracted briefs from news organizations, law enforcement, law professors and some municipalities.

Marsy’s Law is a 2018 constitutional amendment that sought to guarantee crime victims a right to privacy. However, much of its provisions were never defined and the legislature has not weighed in, leading to a patchwork of different policies.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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