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Willhite-backed bill to protect police privacy becomes law

Rep. Matt Willhite representing House District 86 which includes Wellington, Loxahatchee Groves, Royal Palm Beach and parts of West Palm Beach.

Legislation pushed by Rep. Matt Willhite to protect law enforcement officers’ private information was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 12.

S.B. 1046, Public Records/Law Enforcement Geolocation Information, concerns information collected through GPS or other mapping devices in officers’ vehicles. This law exempts the tracking information from release as public records.

The law is intended to protect officers by withholding geolocation information that is not necessary for the public and whose access could be detrimental to officers and their families and friends. Information can be accessed for specific circumstances.

S.B. 1046 was a substitute for H.B. 773, the House version sponsored by Willhite on March 4. The Wellington Democrat originally filed the bill Nov. 30.

The law protects not only officers on patrol, but also their personal information, including their residences. Because police officers may drive their patrol vehicles home, public records requests could reveal their home addresses before S.B. 1046.

Some events are not exempted by the law, such as uniform traffic citations, crash reports, homicide reports, arrest reports and incident reports. A law enforcement agency also is required to release geolocation information in particular instances, such as requests from a state or federal law enforcement agency or if the information is useful for a criminal, civil or administrative proceeding.

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