A Baltimore police officer charged with manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a civilian said in court filings that the Police Department’s new policy of not releasing names of officers involved in shootings has “reignited” residents’ distrust of police and hurts his ability to receive a fair trial, reports the Baltimore Sun. Officer Thomas Sanders, who is alleged to have shot an unarmed man in the back on Jan. 30, 2008, cited “an extremely volatile climate” in which citizens “do not trust the Baltimore Police Department.” He said the department’s policy of not naming officers involved in shootings unless internal investigations determine that they erred has worsened that climate and – because the department named him – implies that he is guilty.
Police say their policy is similar to those in New York and other major cities and is designed to prevent retaliation against officers. Officials have said they will continue to name officers involved in shootings they find to be unjustified after an internal investigation. The policy has come under fire from the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, and some local elected officials, who say it cloaks police activity behind a layer of secrecy and diminishes trust between the department and the community.