The Delmarva Daily Times has been trying for more than a month to get the name of a 17-year-old drowning victim. On July 1, Ocean City Police Department “respectfully denied” the newspaper’s request for the name because “the victim’s family has requested that their deceased child’s name not be released.” The department’s records supervisor continued:
We will respect the wishes of the parents. Disclosure of this accident victim’s name would be an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy and will not “likely contribute to the public’s understanding of the operations and activities of the government.”
Facebook commenters don’t understand why the Maryland newspaper is demanding the name:
Executive editor Michael Kilian responded to the paper’s critics: “No doubt you may be thinking: Why doesn’t the newspaper leave well enough alone? That poor family, dealing with its loss — doesn’t it deserve a right to privacy? Let me explain.”
What’s unusual is not that The Daily Times has sought to obtain the victim’s name. It is that the town of Ocean City has chosen to withhold that name — despite its legal responsibility to make it public.
A simple fact: It is the responsibility of police departments to release details of public accidents and incidents. That responsibility is enshrined in open government laws that exist in Maryland and in each and every state. It is why you certainly have read the name of every accident victim on the Delmarva Peninsula in recent years.
Except this one.