The Civilian Investigative Panel investigates police misconduct in Miami, Florida and has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a Supreme Court case that has law-enforcement agencies divided.
The Civilian Investigative Panel urged the Florida Supreme Court to reject arguments that a 2018 constitutional amendment known as “Marsy’s Law” also applies to law-enforcement officers.
Marsy’s Law was named after Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas who was stalked and killed by her boyfriend in 1983. A week after Marsy’s murder and on their way home from the funeral service, Marsy’s family stopped at a gas station and in the check-out line came face-to-face with Marsy’s murderer. Marsy’s murderer was out on bail days after Marsy’s death. The family received no notification from the judicial system that Marsy’s killer had been released.
Marsy’s Law was put into place to ensure that victims of crimes have equal, constitutional rights on the same level as those accused and convicted of crimes.
“While those accused of crimes have more than 20 individual rights spelled out in the U.S. Constitution, the surviving family members of murder victims have none.”
Police Invoking Marsy’s Law in Tallahassee
The 2018 case involves two Tallahassee police officers who invoked the law to prevent their identities from being released after use-of-force shooting incidents in which they were threatened. The officers believed they were the victims in the incidents and were able to invoke Marsy’s Law. The case was brought to the Supreme Court once the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with the officers.
The Supreme Court has said it will decide the case but has not scheduled arguments.
Lawyers for the Miami police-oversight panel wrote that the appeals court “failed to interpret key provisions of Marsy’s Law in context” and that the ruling should be overturned.
“Allowing police officers, whose sworn duty as public servants is to investigate and respond to crimes, to don the robe of ‘victim’ under Marsy’s Law and prevent the public from learning of their involvement in incidents occurring while performing public duties, upends the constitutional provision,” the brief said. “It also utterly defeats any transparency and potentially renders civilian oversight a nullity.”
The Law Enforcement Agencies Division
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood agree with this statement whereas the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office believes Marsy’s Law should also apply to law enforcement officers.
The former Police Advisory Board of Buffalo, New York was recently disbanded by local officials. The Buffalo News reports, “On March 8, the Council dissolved the Police Advisory Board because of internal fighting, including the resignation of five board members last month and the board’s unwillingness to comply with the Council confirming new members.” But this hasn’t stopped them from being active in public while a new board is established. In fact, they still call themselves the advisory board.