A bill introduced in the South Carolina House would give police and prosecutors unrestricted power to conceal crimes and arrests from the public, critics charge.
“This goes a long way in creating a secret police operation in South Carolina,” Columbia lawyer Jay Bender, a University of South Carolina media law professor, told The State
newspaper. Bender represents several media organizations, including the company that owns The State.
The bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Chris Murphy, would empower law enforcement officials to withhold “information to be used in a prospective law enforcement action or criminal prosecution.”
Murphy told The State the bill is meant to allow authorities to deny Freedom of Information requests from the media that could put witnesses or investigations at risk.
“You could still to get police reports and everything else,” Murphy said. “All my amendment really did in my opinion was add protection for disclosure of information that could be harmful to a victim or a witness.”
Bender said the Freedom of Information law already contains provisions that allow authorities to keep information confidential to protect witnesses and victims, but the law enforcement agency must explain to a judge the need to keep the information secret.
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