Over the past year there has been a louder call for police department reform than ever. In Virginia police reform is in the process of changing, but not in the way most are asking for. After the controversial police brutality cases such as Freddie Grey, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner citizens all over the United States have rallied for improvements such as body cameras and occasional psychological tests. Instead, Virginia has proposed putting police officers under a complete confidentiality agreement.
The state Senate approved of a bill that will thoroughly disguise all information regarding police officers and their employment. Since taxpayer dollars fund officer’s salaries, citizens feel they have a right to know who they are interacting with. The general public would not have access to officers names, positions, employment information, and training backgrounds. One reason behind keeping the employment history of officers hidden is to deflect attention to the fact that policemen with negative records jump from station to station. The demand to cover up such information could stem from the media. Police departments do not want journalists to snoop as far as they please. This bill would block writers from being able to fully research a story and uncover juicy details that would flood a police department with negative press.
This bill turns the victim from the public to the officer. For months now citizens all over the country have voiced how they fear the police. Yet, this bill is dedicated to protecting the police instead of the people. Police in the state of Virginia are not even mandated to wear body cameras. Out of frustration and fear, violence against police officers has been visible. Policemen and women need to be protected. However, citizens need protecting too. Some say that hiding identities of officers could heighten risk for citizens. Without anyone knowing who they are, police may feel free to act however they want under the shield of anonymity. It is ironic that a recent study stated that police are actually safer now compared to other times in recent history. While there has been more threats against police, actual attacks have declined steadily since the 1970’s.
Governor McAuliffe has not publicly commented whether he would sign or reject this bill if it found its way to his desk. It is also unclear if this bill is passed, would it inspire other states to follow suit?