When a Columbus police officer's fatal shooting of a suspect inflamed passions last year, city authorities refused to identify the officer to protect him from “credible threats.” The Ohio Supreme Court ruled yesterday that law-enforcement agencies may withhold the identity of police officers who face substantiated threats of injury or death in retaliation for on-the-job actions, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
The officers' constitutional right to privacy — and personal protection — supersedes Ohio's public-records laws, the justices ruled. A police-union president welcomed the ruling, while the attorney for the Cincinnati Enquirer, which filed the appeal, said it could inhibit public and news-media review of officers' use of deadly force. The Enquirer had sought the names and identifying information of two police officers who were shot in a 2010 confrontation with members of a motorcycle gang at a bar. Cincinnati police refused to release the officers' names, saying they were potential targets for retaliation by the gang because its “national enforcer” was killed in the shootout with officers. The Enquirer argued that Cincinnati police did not provide sufficient evidence that the injured police officers, who recovered, faced credible threats to their safety.