Bill protecting personal information of law enforcement, family members passes Senate

Composite image, St. George News

CEDAR CITY — While some pieces of legislation put before the 2017 session of the Utah Legislature will undoubtedly cause contention, a bill proposed by Southern Utah Sen. Don Ipson to protect the personal information of law enforcement officers and their family members passed the Senate on the first day of the session with no objections.

In an effort to protect this information, Ipson’s bill would enact the following:

  • Providing criminal penalties for online posting of an officer’s address and phone numbers, as well as those of the officer’s spouse or children.
  • Prohibiting the solicitation or sale of the personal information, as well as providing for civil damages and the cost of attorney fees.

Read the full text of the bill here.

During the introduction of the bill, Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-District 25, asked if members of public safety wanted this protection for themselves, to which Ipson responded that they had asked for it.

St. George Police Officer Lona Trombley said she believes this is a good piece of legislation, citing several incidents of where law enforcement officers had been targeted because of their position.

While not necessarily the result of leaked personal information, a St. George police officer living in a neighboring city was targeted by her neighbor in April 2016, with the man even going so far as to allegedly breaking into her home while she was asleep.

Read more: Man who kept rifle trained on police officer’s home arrested after breaking into home with officer inside.

Additionally, Trombley said, another incident last year could have turned out much worse had the suspect not been arrested.

“After a traffic stop, during a search of the vehicle incident to the arrest, a dossier was found with the addresses and Google maps and names of several officers,” Trombley said.

Recently, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office took their own steps to protect officers, Trombley said, by taking the name of the arresting officers off the office’s online booking page.

“We’ve had several officers at all agencies who have been approached and said, ‘Hey, you’re the guy that arrested my friend so-and-so,'” Trombley said. “Then, of course, with that comes the comments ‘Watch your back’ and ‘Watch your family’s back.’

It’s not just law enforcement officers who need to be aware of the availability of their personal information, Trombley said. It’s something all citizens should know. She said:

Google your name. See what information is out there and then go to the websites that have your address and any other information and request that you be removed. … While we (law enforcement) may be targeted more often than others, that doesn’t mean that we don’t believe others should also protect themselves.

Ipson’s bill passed the Senate 24-0, with 5 either abstaining or absent from voting. All of Southern Utah’s senators voted in favor of the bill. On Tuesday, it was introduced in the House of Representatives.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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4 Comments

  • comments January 25, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Why should the law men be protected by a law such as this and not the general public? Law enforcers should be held accountable and if that includes posting whatever about them online that is protected under the first amendment. And if anyone could deal with the result of this sort of thing it would be law enforcers. Do they need their own little special set of silencing laws?

  • Hunter January 26, 2017 at 8:23 am

    I don’t see how this would stand up to a challenge. If the officers’ information is a matter of public record, and someone posts it, how can that person be prosecuted?

    • comments January 26, 2017 at 12:49 pm

      Normal folks don’t have the money or resources to challenge it, and this is what they’re counting on.

      • .... January 27, 2017 at 8:10 am

        The butthurt runs deep on this one. You want some crying towels. write a letter to the reelected Governor I’m sure he cares what you think !

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