After two recent fatal police shootings in San Francisco, the agencies each withheld the the names of the shooters, says the San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco officials cited a department policy meant to protect officers and their careers. Bay Area Rapid Transit officials said they were barred by a far-reaching 2006 California Supreme Court decision that protects police disciplinary records. Critics say the blanket confidentiality claims violate the California Public Records Act, which promotes government accountability.
They may take legal action, reigniting a debate over whether police agencies must name officers in such cases and, beyond that, whether they ought to in order to build public trust. A patchwork of policies now exists around the state. Some agencies release the names of all officers involved in shootings, many after two or three days. Others decline to do so at any time, or decide on a case-by-case basis by assessing whether an officer is in danger, or have no policy at all. Sometimes, the identities are revealed through leaks to the media. The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California may file suit as a result of the Bay Area cases.