To kick off Sunshine Week, an open-government advocacy event being observed by news organizations across the state and country, a House committee approved a bill that will exempt current and former police officers’ and their relatives’ information from public records.
Rep. Chris Latvala and Sen. Jack Latvala, both Pinellas County Republicans, sponsored the bills (H.B. 1015, S.B. 1324) to increase privacy for police officers, state attorneys and public defenders.
In the first committee stop for either bill in either chamber, Rep. Latvala’s proposal passed the Criminal Justice Subcommittee 13-0.
“This would create a public records exemption that was noticeably missing and would create an exemption for state attorneys that did not exist previously,” Latvala said, defending the bill Monday.
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The father-and-son duo has argued that this information needs to be made private to prevent identity theft and attacks against police officers.
A provision of the bill that would have made secret law enforcement officers’ previous employers was removed, but open government advocates still worry that the exemptions in the bill are overly broad and unnecessary.
“I think this goes too far,” said Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation. “I would bet that most of the information they want to protect is available on the Web.”