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Appeals Court rules names of TPD officers involved in shootings are confidential

Posted at 2:39 PM, Apr 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-06 17:49:28-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — A Florida appellate court ruled in favor of the Florida Police Benevolent Association to keep the names of Tallahassee police officers involved in shootings private under Marsy’s Law.

Initially, the trial court determined that the "protections afforded crime victims under article I, section 16 were unavailable to law enforcement officers even when a crime suspect threatened an officer with deadly force."

The new ruling reverses the trial court’s order.

It also reverses the trial court’s judgment that Marsy’s Law cannot apply to officers when acting in their official capacities.

The City of Tallahassee released the following statement on behalf of Cassandra K. Jackson, City Attorney:

"As always, the City of Tallahassee respects the deliberations and decision of the First District Court of Appeal. The Court has determined that police officers, when acting within the scope of their public duties, are afforded the protections of Marsy’s Law as crime victims. The City will carefully review the Court’s decision in evaluating whether to appeal."

Tallahassee's First Amendment Foundation announced its disappointment with the First District Court of Appeal's ruling in Florida Police Benevolent Association, Inc., et al. v. City of Tallahassee, Florida.

"Across the country, cities and states are increasing access to law enforcement records when officers use force or are accused of misconduct," said Pamela Marsh, the executive director of the FAF. "For the first time in Minnesota, cameras are allowed in a courtroom to document the trial of Derek Chauvin, the officer accused in the death of George Floyd. Other states are mandating disclosure of records on police shootings, use of excessive force, and confirmed instances of lying. Florida is moving in the opposite direction. This ruling can only undermine the public's belief that law enforcement will ever be held accountable for serious misconduct."

The trial and PBA appeal stem from three separate Tallahassee police officer-involved shootings in 2020.

A Tallahassee Police officer killed Mychael Johnson on March 20. That officer says Johnson was resisting arrest. That officer's identity was later released.

On May 19, a TPD officer said Wilbon Cleveland came at him with a knife, causing him to fire his gun.

Eight days later, a third TPD officer shot Tony McDade after he said McDade pulled a gun first.

On July 24, 2020, a Leon County judge ruled that law officers who shot and killed suspects can't use Marsy's Law to hide their identities.

Attorneys for those officers appealed the ruling. The city attorney claimed under Sunshine Laws those names have to be released, leaving a judge to decide between the two amendments. Leon County Circuit Court Judge Charles Dobson then ruled the law does not apply to officers when they're on the job.

Each officer said they were victimized by attacks from the suspects.

"The officer is a victim just like anybody else in this situation so Marsy's Law kicks in," said TPD Chief Lawrence Revell. "The officer is afforded the same rights as any other victim."

A Leon County Grand Jury ruled on Sept. 4, 2020, the officers involved in the three deadly officer-involved shootings in Tallahassee would not be charged with crimes.