Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld III is defending a new policy not to name police officers who shoot or kill civilians, saying the change is a safeguard to prevent retaliation and harassment, reports the Baltimore Sun. Police will release the rank, tenure and assignment of the officer immediately after an incident. The department will wait until after an internal investigation to decide whether to release the name of an officer who acted justifiably. Bealefeld said the department will always release the officer’s name and the disciplinary actions taken if a shooting is determined not to be justified. “With the increasing amount of personal information on any individual available through the Internet, we must take a measured approach in balancing the public’s right to know against personal security,” Bealefeld said, citing “home addresses, satellite photographs, credit reports and voting and academic records.”
City and state elected leaders, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union have criticized the policy. The police union backs the plan. Officials say it follows the practices of the FBI and police departments in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Atlanta. Baltimore police said they investigated 23 threats against police officers in 2008, though it was unclear how many related to police shootings.