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N.C. Opinions: Burlington

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Best intentions but wrong

From an editorial in the Burlington Times-News on Friday:

N.C. lawmakers should pause before approving a proposal to exempt police and certain court officials from being identified in public records online. The bill was borne of the best intentions; but it sets a bad precedent and implies that the people who enforce our laws deserve protections that the rest of us do not enjoy.

The state House Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that would remove identifying information on law enforcement officials from records on local-government web sites, including property tax records, deeds and just about any other public record that is available online. Active or retired prosecutors, police, federal and state agents and federal judges are among those who would be permitted to remove identifying information from their records.

Sponsors have a legitimate concern that criminals could track down law enforcement officials or their families through public records – it’s a given that bad people out for revenge can do very bad things.

But this bill represents a troubling trend toward restricting access to information that has long been public.

Law enforcement officials come into contact with dangerous people daily and they deserve our protection. But lawmakers also must be extremely cautious when it comes to restricting access to public information that is kept on every taxpaying citizen.

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