After police names disappear from court case search, Baltimore State's Attorney candidate posts database - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Mar. 5, 2018 12:59 pm

After police names disappear from court case search, Baltimore State’s Attorney candidate posts database

Thiru Vignarajah's campaign made the #opendata move over the weekend amid calls for transparency.

Baltimore police.

(Image used under a Creative Commons license.)

The names of police officers were removed from Maryland’s searchable online court database last week. But over the weekend, names resurfaced on the campaign website of Baltimore City State’s Attorney candidate Thiru Vignarajah.

As the Baltimore Sun first reported, the names of police officers were removed from online records of cases in which they were witnesses from the Maryland Judiciary Case Search site on Thursday. The move originated with a rules committee decision in June as the state judiciary said it was seeking to “protect personal identifying information from potential misuse.” Police in Anne Arundel County acknowledged calling for a change, but only for first names to be removed.

As the Sun noted, the removal comes at a time when the case search feature is being used to track developments in corruption cases of police such as the Gun Trace Task Force case.

The removal of the names quickly drew criticism as an anti-transparency move, with the Washington Post editorial board writing that “the people who make the rules for Maryland’s courts decided that transparency and police accountability are no big deal.”

With those calls intensifying over the weekend, Vignarajah’s campaign sought to reopen the records. His campaign website now has a database that includes last names and first initials of officers, as well as case numbers and dates, from 2010-July 2017.

“Just as we will in office, we moved swiftly to create this community resource to promote transparency, rebuild trust, and to dispel the impression that public officials are hiding information about police involvement in specific cases,” his campaign wrote on Twitter.

Vignarajah is challenging incumbent Marilyn Mosby in June’s primary election. Attorney Ivan Bates is also running to be the city’s top prosecutor.

UPDATE (1:30 p.m.): The chair of the Maryland Judiciary’s rules committee issued a letter Monday calling the names’ disappearance an “honest mistake,” and called an emergency hearing on Tuesday to reconsider the change. “The language that was deleted can be restored on an emergency basis, if that is what the Court desires to do,” the letter states.

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