OUR VIEW: A win for transparency
Public information shall still be public.
That's the opinion shared by South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley in relation to Marsy's Law, the new victims' rights constitutional amendment approved by voters in November.
On Monday, Jackley's office released a legal opinion stating government entities are not automatically blocked from releasing information such as locations of a crime or details of crash reports.
Jackley said in the opinion that the amendment requires victims to actively invoke their right to prevent the disclosure of information or records.
The law — which establishes rights for victims, including privacy, protection from harassment or abuse — has created confusion since it was passed as many law enforcement and state agencies withheld information that was previously available to err on the side of caution.
We're pleased Jackley's office moved promptly to issue an opinion through the formation of a task force and allowed South Dakota Newspaper Association Executive Director David Bordewyk to have a seat at the table.
We stand by Bordewyk in his belief that the AG's opinion restores and maintains the release of the very basic and essential law enforcement information such as names and addresses of those involved in accidents or crimes.
"We think the public has an expectation for that basic information and the public also expects the press to report those basic facts related to law enforcement records," Bordewyk said Tuesday.
Important to remember is Jackley's legal opinion is just that, an opinion. It's not law.
But we're urging law enforcement agencies, state's attorneys and city attorneys to help us inform our readers.
Part of our job as a newspaper is to report and inform, and we feel the decision to withhold information due to Marsy's Law was too much of a knee-jerk reaction.
In fact, many law enforcement officials utilize the media to help locate suspects in crimes, such as robberies and child abductions. So it's important to keep that working relationship strong.
But now, through the work of the 25-person task force made up of law enforcement officials, attorneys and state officials, among others, we have an educated, joint decision on the amendment for all to follow.
We hope our readers feel as strongly about the release of this public information as we and the South Dakota Newspaper Association feel. Public information deserves to be public — and we're glad the attorney general clarified that.