Delaware’s state senate yesterday tabled a bill that would have barred public access to law enforcement officer names held in a criminal justice database. The proposal was made by Attorney General M. Jane Brady after the state Supreme Court ordered part of the database be released to The Wilmington News Journal. The court decision required the Delaware Justice Information System to provide names of arresting officers with other details from a decade of criminal cases.
The newspaper sought the records under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, part of a six-year fight over data the newspaper wanted for use in analyzing the criminal justice system.
The News Journal said State Prosecutor Steven Wood said the release could jeopardize police safety, although arresting-officers’ names already are available in public court documents. Under the ruling, the state would have to release the names of undercover agents or other officers to anyone, including those with grudges against police. “This applies to scribes, it applies to scholars and it also applies to scoundrels,” Wood said. “We can’t be a government that picks and chooses to whom information will be released.”
The bill was tabled after an amendment was passed, 14 go 7, that would permit release of names that already appear in court filings or public proceedings. Undercover police or others involved in investigations would be exempt.