Baltimore Police name officer in shooting, a policy that was nearly stopped

Baltimore Police have identified a police officer involved in the shooting of a knife-wielding man earlier this week in West Baltimore.

The identification of Officer Fred Murray, who shot a 49-year-old man Tuesday in the 1200 block of Oakhurst Pl., follows the department's policy of waiting 48 hours to identify an officer. A few years ago, the agency began withholding such names before reversing course.

The Sun in January 2009 first reported that the police had broken a decades-old policy of releasing officers names, with the agency saying that it would protect officers from retaliation, 23 officers had been threatened in the previous year. But none of those were related to police-involved shootings.

The move was widely criticized by politicians, civil liberties groups and the NAACP, who said it cloaked police activity in secrecy and diminished trust between the department and the community. One officer criminally charged in an on-duty shooting said the the policy change had reignited distrust of police and hurt his ability to get a fair trial (he was later acquitted). The department in a public awards ceremony later bestowed some of its highest honors on officers who under the policy shouldn't have been identified because their acts of bravery involved shootings.

How is the information relevant to the public? In one shooting, a month after the policy change, an officer fatally shot a man in East Baltimore after being overpowered for the second time in four years by a suspect who attempted to steal her weapon, raising questions about training. In another case, prior shooting records showed that Officer Gahiji Tshamba, who shot and killed a man outside a downtown club while off-duty, had been involved in a prior shooting in which he was found to be driving drunk and had pursued a vehicle that cut him off. But the names aren't always relevant, and aren't always reported in The Sun.

A year later, the department reversed course and said it would wait 48 hours, in line with how some other department's handle such incidents. In addition to the officer's name, the department discloses their time on the force and whether they have been involved in prior shootings. 

Murray, a six year veteran, has no prior shootings, but in 2011 the city settled for $95,000 with a man who said Murray was among a group of officers who falsely arrested and assaulted him in 2009. In this week's incident, police received a call for a "mentally ill man carrying knives." According to police, the man, identified as David Yim, approached Murray's vehicle, and Murray fired his weapon five times, striking Yim once. The incident remains under investigation, police say.

Police shootings have been on a downward trend in Balimore in recent years, falling from 33 in 2007 to 10 in 2010 and 14 last year. Three people have been shot by city officers this year, with all of them occurring since March 27. None of the officers in the recent cases have been involved in prior shootings. 

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