Times-Call (Longmont): Police officers sometimes find themselves in situations that necessitate the use of deadly force. But, because those officers engage in life-or-death interactions on our streets and in our neighborhoods, the community is owed a high degree of transparency and accountability related to officer actions. A tenet of such accountability is that law enforcement officials should publicly identify any officer who is involved in the fatal shooting of a suspect, whether or not the shooting was justified.
Officials with Longmont Police Department and the 20th Judicial District recently took the extraordinary step of declining to identify three officers who in September were involved in the fatal shooting of a suspect. The decision to withhold the names of the officers, who were found to be legally justified in the shooting, was based on concerns for the safety of members of the Longmont Police Department, which has received credible threats from several people connected to the suspect, Gillie Thurby III. This is a legitimate precaution and not one that, taken alone, warrants complaint.
Police work is dangerous enough without specific threats being made against individual officers. It would be irresponsible to call for the release of officers’ names so long as such disclosure puts them in greater jeopardy.
But unfulfilled accountability must not be indefinite. An open society is not one in which armed agents of the state can anonymously kill members of the community. Police officials have offered no indication that the withholding of the officers’ identities is a temporary measure.
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