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Originally published Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 4:28 PM

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Privacy bill's misguided symbolism

The state Legislature heads down a slippery slope with a law-enforcement privacy bill that even supporters agree is largely meaningless.

HOUSE Majority Leader Lynn Kessler freely admits that a bill aimed at protecting the privacy of law enforcement actually would not do much of anything.

The proposed law would exempt personal information on law-enforcement employees from the Public Disclosure Act. But state law already protects public employees' home addresses, home phone numbers and Social Security numbers from disclosure.

Moreover, anyone with access to a computer can find information about public employees on the Internet. Information is also available in government files such as property records.

So why enact empty legislation? Symbolism, says Kessler. The Hoquiam Democrat calls House Bill 1317 a gesture of appreciation for a law-enforcement community rocked by a spate of police officer killings.

Kessler and the flock of lawmakers who followed her lead are misguided. The memories of those police officers should not be invoked to pass legislation that will undercut the very laws they swore to protect.

Lawmakers should hold law enforcement's sacrifice in the highest esteem, not use it to pass bills.

The bill passed the House and faced almost certain passage in the Senate late Tuesday. It is surprising few saw through the misguided symbolism. Legislators should not want their names attached to a bill that blocks access to government information and could hinder investigating of wrongdoing by criminal-justice employees.

Such action would damage the public trust law-enforcement personnel depend on to do their jobs. It may also open the door for bills from other groups of public employees wanting to be exempted from public disclosure.

This is a slippery slope heading downward to a lack of government transparency and openness.

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