Law enforcement officers should be exempt from Marsy’s Law

In 2016, South Dakota voters approved Constitutional Amendment S, also known as The South Dakota Marsy’s Law Crime Victim Rights Amendment, by about 60% to 40%.

The intent of the bill was to protect victims of crimes by expanding their rights of privacy, being informed of the judicial process, among others.

However, it proved to have unintended consequences that were immediate and hard-hitting. Even car insurance companies trying to settle claims for vehicle accidents were stymied in obtaining information because the knee-jerk reaction from law enforcement was to withhold all information about victims of crimes.

Fortunately, then attorney general Marty Jackley, issued an opinion stating that victims of crimes needed to opt into the law rather than be automatically enrolled into it.

In June 2018, Constitutional Amendment Y guaranteed these changes as it was approved by nearly 80% of the voters.

But there is still one glaring loophole that needs to be closed.

Law enforcement officers, who in the line of duty, claim to be victims of crimes, or have taken actions that may be questioned regarding justification may opt into Marsy’s Law and have their names withheld from release.

This should not be the case.

Law enforcement officers have an all too often thankless job — long days, dangerous work, and being forced to interact with society’s problems. We thank all of our officers for their work and dedication to our citizens and their efforts to make our communities a better place to live.

Since Marsy’s Law was implemented in South Dakota, several law enforcement officers have opted into its protection after being involved in on-duty shootings. Most recently, two Sioux Falls police officers opted into Marsy’s Law after they were involved in an Oct. 6 shooting. The South Dakota Attorney General’s Office determined that both Officer 1 and Officer 2, as listed in the report, were justified in their actions — only Officer 2 fired his duty weapon striking Trent Wagner three times after he pointed a revolver at them and fired a single shot.

Pulling the trigger to protect yourself or others should not be taken lightly. That goes for police officers or a member of the public. The person who fires that shot needs to own it — that includes whether the bullet hits its intended target or not.

Law enforcement officers should be held to the highest standard. And that standard, when firing their weapons in the line of duty, should be mandatory identification.

Our state already has a fantastic, independent investigation system in place for officer-involved shootings. Within 30 days, the Attorney General’s Office releases a report on the shootings following an investigation by the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation. In that report includes officer statements, public statements, toxicology reports on by the suspects and officers, inventories of weapons and ammunition — both expended and live rounds — and more. What’s needed in that report, is the identity of officers involved.

This is a direct nod to the transparency in government, accountability, and the public’s right to know information about public servants actions while doing the public’s work.

Black Hills Pioneer,

Editorial Board

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