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Idaho State Police no longer releasing names of people involved in crashes

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IDAHO FALLS — Idaho State Police will no longer include the names of those involved in crashes in their news releases.

The decision was made after officials with the state’s police agency reviewed its practices over the past few years, ISP spokeswoman Lynn Hightower told EastIdahoNews.com. In the past, ISP has sent out many releases shortly after crashes that included the names of people killed or involved.

“It’s really been a lengthy and careful process looking at a combination of factors that have to do with concerns in some cases where the release of all the names of the individuals involved in a vehicle crash … (has) interfered with the investigation,” Hightower said. “Also there are new updates with patient medical privacy … as well as protection of an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

Previously, ISP in many cases has released what hospitals people were taken to after a crash. With the updates in procedures, ISP will no longer identify what hospital crash victims are being taken to.

“With the speed and methods that news travels today, which is often a good thing … (it is) also is potentially compromising of personal privacy of people involved in these cases,” Hightower said.

In the future, names of people killed in crashes will have to come from local county coroners, Hightower said. It is not yet clear how this process will work, and EastIdahoNews.com will begin working with local coroners to get such information.

“We have had it reviewed certainly by our legal advisers,” Hightower said. “It’s not a matter of waiting to see if the agency violates medical privacy or really waits for a case — it’s a matter of looking at what is out there and adapting it to what we’re doing every day and really trying to do the right thing.”

Troopers will still be providing updates on crashes to inform the public about road hazards or a crash’s impact on travel. The releases will include details like descriptions of vehicles involved and ages, genders and hometowns of the people involved.

Additionally, ISP plans to release names of people arrested in connection to criminal incidents involving troopers.

Typically the media uses the names of crash victims to inform the community about injuries or death of locals or to help the families of victims raise funds for past medical bills or funerals.

Idaho public records law is broad in what law enforcement does and does not have to release. Specifically, law enforcement is exempt from releasing information that can interfere with enforcement proceedings, “constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” or other factors, according to the Idaho Attorney General’s office public records manual.

EastIdahoNews.com has reached out to the Idaho Press Club, which often speaks out about the release of public information and we will update this story if we receive a response.

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