What could our supposed defenders of open government possibly be thinking?
With little thought or notice last week, the state House passed a law that would allow a judge to prevent the disclosure of the name of a police officer who took someone’s life if there were a “credible threat of present danger” to that officer’s life.
The legislation is intended to shield the state police officer who fatally shot Robert “LaVoy” Finicum in the Malheur wildlife refuge occupation last month.
Oregon State Police Supt. Richard Evans Jr. asked for the legislation because other wackos like the ones who had occupied the refuge have made threats against the life of the cop who shot their standard bearer.
So, in the compressed time frame of the short legislative session, 55 House members on both sides of the aisle succumbed to supposed threats. Three Republicans voted against the measure, for what we think are obvious reasons.
“I am concerned about the ongoing possibilities” said Rep. John Huffman, R- The Dalles, who said he would try to have the bill amended in the Senate so that it automatically expires in a few years. “We’re dealing a lot with transparency in this building. And I don’t want our state to be perceived ... as being nontransparent.”
This move is disturbing on so many levels, all having to do with the responsibility of government to the electorate.
Since when do we allow wackos to dictate public policy?
Since when do we cower in the shadows at the supposed threat of retaliation?
Since when do we provide a shield to a public official who holds life or death power over us?
Since when did naïve legislators discover what police officers (not to mention their own boss) already knew — that their professions put them in the line of fire every single day? It comes with the badge.
We recall that immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act, a law which has since then been acknowledged as a poorly crafted, knee-jerk response that impinged on civil liberties.
The House bill is scheduled to go to the Senate. If that body follows the House, the Oregon Legislature will have committed the same knee-jerk, emotionally based mistake.