When a police officer in Casper, Wyoming, shot and killed a man, local news organizations had to decide if outing the officer would put him in danger.
The July 12, 2015, shooting came in the midst of a summer news cycle dominated by cop stories. The Casper Police Department received threats before the officer was named and was worried the public’s perception would stick, even if he were cleared of any wrongdoing.
The department asked news organizations not to publish the officer’s name.
Mark Hyman, K2TV news director, said his station obliged. But when the officer was cleared on September 2, K2TV news anchors reported that the police department’s request “fell on deaf ears by the Casper Star-Tribune.”
That day, the Casper Star-Tribune’s front-page story, “DA: Casper officer who fatally shot man was justified,” published the name. “The Casper Star-Tribune stands by its story,” the paper wrote in an e-mail statement.
Hyman said he was shocked to see the police officer’s name published both online and in print.
“If there wasn’t a target on his back, there really was now,” Hyman said.
Andrew Seaman, chairman for the Society of Professional Journalists’ ethics committee, said in most cases it’s standard to include an officer’s name, but the decision should be thoroughly discussed with police and editors.
“If there were threats against officers, maybe that would be reason to hold back,” he said. “Talk with a bunch of people until you feel secure in your decision and have a rational reason to print.”